Art thieves linked to Waugh theft

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The Independent Online
The gang that stole a £5m painting from the Marquess of Bath's stately home may have struck a second time in a raid on the home of the writer Auberon Waugh.

Detectives are investigating possible links with the break-in at Mr Waugh's country home in Somerset in which about £20,000 worth of jewellery and paintings were taken.

A police spokesman said there were "obvious similarities" between the two crimes, which took place 40 miles apart.

Ports and airports have been put on alert following the theft of the Titian masterpiece, Rest On The Flight To Egypt, from Longleat House, near Warminster, Wiltshire, on Friday. A reward of £100,000 was offered yesterday for the return on the painting.

It was disclosed yesterday that on Saturday night thieves broke into the home of Mr Waugh and his wife Lady Teresa, in the village of Combe Florey, near Taunton, Somerset. The burglars took the engagement ring the writer gave Teresa 34 years ago along with seven paintings and silverware. The house was owned by Mr Waugh's father, the novelist Evelyn Waugh.

Lady Waugh discovered the raid when she went into her bedroom and found a window smashed and the valuables stolen.

A ladder was still lying against the wall and Mr Waugh, editor of the Literary Review and a Daily Telegraph columnist, said he believed the raiders had used an axe to break in. He added that he and his wife had never even bothered to lock the doors for their first 30 years in the house.

The couple are understood to have been eating downstairs when the burglary took place between 6.30 and 9.30 in the evening.

Several intruders were seen in the grounds the week before and footprints were discovered.

Sgt Frank Waghorn of Somerset and Avon police said: "This was a very professional job. People who take paintings usually have an outlet to sell them which puts them in a different league to an opportunist burglar."

A reward of £100,000 was offered yesterday for the return of millions of pounds worth of art treasures stolen from Longleat House.

Tyler and Company, the loss adjusters said that they had set the reward for the safe return of the Titian, worth £5m, and two other paintings worth a total of £20,000. The paintings were taken from the state drawing room of the 16th-century house. The thieves got in through a first floor window.

The reward will be paid if the paintings are unharmed and the informant is proved not to have been involved in the theft.

Avon and Somerset Police, investigating the raid at Mr Waugh's home, are liaising with Wiltshire police.

"There are obvious similarities between the two crimes, with paintings being stolen from a country mansion," a spokesman said. "The raids may be connected."

Philip Saunders, general manager of Trace magazine which lists stolen works of art and antiques, highlighted the similarities between the two burglaries and a third raid, in November, at the Earl of Pembroke's home, Wilton House, near Salisbury.

In all three crimes, the raiders used a ladder and broke in through a first-floor window, Mr Saunders said.