A West Yorkshire man has been sentenced to nine years imprisonment at Carlisle Crown Court today for being involved in a series of high profile thefts from Kendal, Sussex and Shrewsbury.
Graham Geoffrey Harkin, 57, of Chestnut Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire received three sentences today following a police investigation into the theft of the ancient timepieces from Cumbria last year.The three sentences Harkin received are: Five years for handling stolen goods at Levens Hall, Kendal Nine years for burglary in Sussex Seven years for the burglary in Shrewsbury These three sentences, totalling 21 years, are to run concurrently.
Burglar jailed for mansion raids found with £200,000 clock
Career criminal Graham Harkin tried to claim a £25,000 reward for returning a Thomas Tompion clock stolen from Levens Hall, near Kendal, Cumbria and thought he was dealing with an agent of its real owner.
But the exchange at Birch Services on the M62 was with a police officer, and when he was arrested officers found the clock - more than 300 years old - in the boot of his BMW.
It had been stolen in September 2009 by an intruder who used a ladder to smash a window.
Detectives from Cumbria Police liaised with other forces and linked Harkin's mobile phone with other high value thefts elsewhere.
This week at Carlisle Crown Court he admitted burgling Firle Place, near Lewes, Sussex, where 18th century Sevres porcelain worth more than £1 million was stolen in a night break-in.
The country house has been in Lord Gage's family for more than 500 years and is also used as judges' lodgings when they are sitting at Lewes Crown Court.
Detectives also placed Harkin at a break-in at Longnor Hall, Shropshire, partly because of the thief's lack of sophistication.
The court heard he used the pseudonym Graham Parkin and his real postcode when he signed in during a visit to the country house, which the prosecution said was his chance to "case the joint".
Harkin's mobile phone - used in dealings over claiming the reward for the ebony clock - was traced to both Firle Place and Longnor Hall around the times of the break-ins.
He was a National Trust member and would visit country houses to look for weaknesses in security, the court heard.
Harkin, a 58-year-old grandfather, from Chestnut Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, looked shaken when he was jailed for nine years.
He admitted two counts of burglary in relation to the Sussex and Shropshire break-ins and one count of handling the clock.
Judge Peter Hughes said: "That superb collection of Sevres porcelain is now lost.
"Over £1 million worth of delicate items passed down through succeeding generations now totally unaccounted for.
"A collection which is unlikely ever to be put back together again.
"Harkin, you have chosen not to say what happened to that porcelain."
Gary Swindell, also 58, of Cunliff Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, was jailed for three years for handling porcelain stolen from Longnor Hall.
He was caught at a car boot sale selling some of the Shropshire items stolen by his associate.
Police managed to stop some porcelain - sold on eBay in good faith by genuine antiques dealers - from being sent to China.
After the sentencing, Senior Crown Prosecutor Peter Kelly, from CPS Cumbria, said: "Graham Harkin was hoping to make significant profit for himself by targeting valuable items that were on show to the public in country houses. However, he was caught out in the end by his own greed when he tried to claim the reward for one of the antiques.
"The prosecution estimates that, in only a matter of a few weeks, Graham Harkin dealt with well over £1 million worth of stolen antiques.
"Antique thefts such as these often result in items of significant historical interest being lost to public view forever and his convictions and sentence send a clear message that police and prosecutors will take these offences seriously."CCTV footage below showing Graham Harkin staking out the grounds of Firle