A man who stole a 328 year old statue wrote to a ceramics expert asking him to value it for him (it's worth 160,000).......

I stole this statue, will you value it for me?

15th June 2007
Daily Mail

An "idiotic" thief who stole a 17th century porcelain figurine of national importance was caught out when he wrote to a ceramics expert asking for a valuation.

Jason Cochlin, 32, was part of a gang who took the figure of Ignis - the personification of fire - and 11 others from the Allen Gallery in Alton, Hampshire, in 2002.

The 1679 tin-glazed figure, described in court as a piece of Britain's heritage, was worth up to 160,000.

The figurine: It is worth 160,000 and dates from 1679

Cochlin, who has not named his fellow thieves, was found guilty of conspiracy to steal the pieces at Winchester Crown Court and jailed for 12 months.

His barrister Robert Pawson said Cochlin, from Southampton, had been forced to take part in the conspiracy because he owed a debt to someone.

He said Cochlin had used a loan of 20,000 to buy Ignis back from the criminal who had it, and told the court the married father of three could not name him otherwise he would be shot.

"Mr Cochlin was idiotic enough to write to a world expert on English earthenware, Jonathan Horne, giving the insignia of the figure and asking for a valuation," said Mr Pawson.

Mr Horne knew the treasure - made in London as a commission for a client interested in alchemy and science - was stolen. He contacted the museum and they called the police.

After he was caught, Cochlin handed the undamaged figure, which he had kept wrapped in towels inside a shoebox, back to police.