VALUABLE Chinese treasures worth more than £2m that were stolen in a well-planned heist from Durham University museum have been recovered.
The artefacts that were taken from Durham University’s Oriental Museum 10 days ago in a daring raid have been found.
However, police are remaining tight-lipped about exactly how and where they were recovered.
Thieves forced a hole through the building’s outside wall on Elvet Street. It took 30 minutes to break into the building and as little as 60 seconds to steal the valuable items.
The thieves had made off before officers alerted by the alarm got to the scene, in what police said was almost certainly a well-planned operation.
Using torches to provide light, the gang made immediately for two cabinets containing an 18th-Century jade bowl and a Dehua porcelain figurine.
Despite making five arrests, Durham Police could not initially find the artefacts and alerted ports around the country.
But a police spokeswoman said yesterday: “Both artefacts have been recovered.”
The bowl dates from 1769 and has a Chinese poem written inside, while the figurine is of seven fairies in a boat and stands about 12in (30cm) high.
Both are from the Qing Dynasty, China’s last imperial dynasty, and their total value is estimated by auctioneers at more than £2m.
It was thought that the 18th-Century solid jade bowl and the 12in figurine were stolen to order, and may have been smuggled out of the country.
But just 10 days after the thefts, Durham Police have confirmed that both artefacts have been recovered.
Police are now hunting for two men from the Walsall area in the West Midlands.
Adrian Stanton, 32, and Lee Wildman, 35, also known as Jason Green, are prime suspects. Wildman was arrested over the Easter weekend but was granted bail on Easter Monday.
Police in the West Midlands tried to re-arrest Wildman, but he escaped and has not been seen since.
Officers are also urging local people to ring police if they have information relating to three vehicles thought to be connected to the gang.
The cars are an orange Renault Megane, an electric blue Audi S3 model and a blue BMW 330 Coupe
The museum will re-open today after being closed since the theft.
Security is to be tightened following the audacious raid. But Durham University bosses are not prepared to say what new measures have been taken to protect the treasures at the Oriental Museum on Elvet Hill.
Top-level discussions are being held to ensure the safety of the priceless Lindisfarne Gospels when they visit the city next year. Anyone with information should call police on 101.