Police were last night hunting two men wanted in connection with a daring museum raid in which Chinese treasures worth £2m were stolen in less than a minute.
Thieves drilled a hole in an outside wall at Durham University's Oriental Museum late last Thursday, then took as little as 60 seconds to make off with an 18th century jade bowl and a Dehua porcelain figurine.
The speed and efficiency with which the raid was carried out has led police to believe that the artefacts were stolen to order.
Durham Police named Lee Wildman, also known as Jason or Lee Green, 35, from Remington Road, Walsall, and Adrian Stanton, 32, from West Bromwich Street, also Walsall, as the two men they want to trace.
Mr Wildman was one of five people from the West Midlands who was arrested and bailed, but he can no longer be found by police.
A 40-strong team of detectives is now involved in the hunt for the two men. Det Supt Adrian Green said: "I am keen to speak to both these men as soon as possible.
"They will both be aware of our interest and if anyone knows where they have gone, I would ask them to contact the police or to ring Crimestoppers. I am sure this job has been planned for quite some time and I'd think the artefacts have been stolen to order, for someone who has already identified a potential market.
"The criminals went through the wall of the museum and they were going for two items in particular."
The robbers made off with a bowl that dates from 1769 and has a Chinese poem written inside, together with a figurine of seven fairies in a boat that stands about 12 inches high.
Dr Craig Barclay, the museum's curator, said: "The two pieces are highly significant in that they are fine examples of artefacts from the Qing Dynasty in the mediums of porcelain and hard stone."
Police are also trying to trace two black men and an olive-skinned man who all spoke with London accents who were seen in the museum six hours before the raid.Reuse content