Art thief gets long stretch

Country house burglar Graham Harkin
Country house burglar Graham Harkin

AN art thief has been jailed for nine years for burgling stately homes.

Grandad Graham Geoffrey Harkin, 58, of Chestnut Walk, Wakefield, admitted a £1m porcelain collection burglary in Sussex, a £27,000 pottery burglary in Shrewsbury and handling stolen goods connected to a burglary at Levens Hall, Cumbria where a £200,000 clock was stolen.

“Career criminal” Harkin was caught out by his own greed after trying to claim a £20,000 reward for the missing clock. He thought he was dealing with an agent for the owner but it turned out to be a policeman. The 300-year old clock was found in the boot of Harkin’s BMW.

Carlisle Crown Court heard how Harkin was a National Trust member and would go around “casing” country houses to look for weaknesses in security

But police seized Harkin’s mobile phone and it linked him both Firle Place, East Sussex and Longnor Hall, Shropshire around the times of the break-ins.

Prosecutor Tim Evans said: “It was not the entertaining tale of Raffles the gentleman burglar. The haul was precious and irreplaceable antiques and the values were eye-popping – in excess of £1m. It was the looting of our history and heritage for profit.”

None of those items has ever been recovered.

Also before the court was Gary Swindell, 58, of Cunliff Road, Bradford, who was jailed for three years for handling porcelain stolen from Longnor Hall.

After the sentencing, Senior Crown Prosecutor Peter Kelly, from CPS Cumbria, said: “Harkin was caught out in the end by his own greed when he tried to claim the reward for one of the antiques.”