'Irreplaceable' books by Galileo and Sir Isaac Newton found buried underground

18 September 2020, 13:22

The combined value of the books is estimated around £2.5m
The combined value of the books is estimated around £2.5m. Picture: Metropolitan Police

A stolen collection of historically significant books worth millions of pounds have been recovered after they were found buried underground in Romania.

The 200 books, which include works by Italian astronomer Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, and eighteenth century Spanish painter Francisco Goya, were stolen in London in 2017 but were found this week after an international investigation.

Worth a combined value of more than £2.5m, police say the books are considered "irreplaceable" and of international importance.

The discovery comes after a three-year investigation involving the Metropolitan Police, the Romanian National Police and Italian Carabinieri, supported by Europol and Eurojust, after the books were taken from a postal transit warehouse in Feltham.

They were due to be sent to Las Vegas for a specialist book auction when the robbers broke in by cutting holes in the roof of the warehouse and abseiling down to avoid protective sensors.

Leaving the same way they entered, the thieves escaped with 16 bags of goods.

On Wednesday, officers searched a house in Neamț, in the northeastern Romanian region of Moldavia, and found the full collection had been buried underground.

The books were found hidden underground in a rural part of Romania
The books were found hidden underground in a rural part of Romania. Picture: Metropolitan Police

A statement on Friday from the Metropolitan Police said it believed the burglars were part of a Romanian organised crime group linked to a number of families that are part of the Clamparu group.

Based out of the Iași region in eastern Romania, the group is said to have a history of involvement in high-scale robberies.

The thieves involved in the Feltham incident are also believed to be behind several high-profile warehouse robberies in the UK, having flown group members in and out of the country to commit crimes, and then transport stolen goods out using other methods.

There are at least 11 other offences across London, where £2m worth of property has been stolen and where robbers have entered buildings via the roofs.

The international investigation led to 45 addressed across the UK, Romania and Italy being searching in June last year, and resulted in arrests.

The thieves took the books by abseiling into a warehouse to avoid sensors
The thieves took the books by abseiling into a warehouse to avoid sensors. Picture: Metropolitan Police

Twelve people have since pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit burglaries between December 2016 and April 2019.

A 13th person is set to be tried in March 2021.

Detective Inspector Andy Durham, from Specialist Crime South, said finding the books on Wednesday marked a "perfect end" to the operation as it had been feared they could be "sadly lost to the world forever".

He said: "These books are extremely valuable, but more importantly they are irreplaceable and are of great importance to international cultural heritage."

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