Ownership of the paintings lies with Star Assurance, Eagle Star's fine art insurance arm, which gets title to objects as soon as claims are paid. Simon Blackwell, manager of Star Assurance, said: 'We always go back to the client and offer them back at the same price . . . Until now, we have always recovered things that belonged to a gallery that is still trading.'
He added that the paintings would probably be auctioned. The recovery was made after one of the paintings, a Cornish landscape by William Scott, was offered at an auction in Malmo, Sweden. Robert Scott, the artist's son, spotted it and contacted the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Squad. Three other paintings from the Trinity Gallery raid are still missing; none of the items stolen from other galleries have turned up.
The combined value of the recovered works is pounds 150,000. It is believed that the thieves had intended to take three works by Jack Yeats, which were at the time fetching prices of more than pounds 200,000 each. However, the gallery owner had moved them for safekeeping before the break-in.
Constable's earliest painting of Willy Lott's cottage at Flatford Mill, Suffolk, failed to make its pounds 180,000 reserve yesterday.