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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

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Stately homes raider made £600,000 from antiques

A BURGLAR who got away with priceless antiques by targeting some of England’s top stately homes has admitted making £600,000 from his crimes.

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NEW WAYS: Levens Hall is famed for its topiary gardens but led the way in technology to have its own ice house long before it was possible to plug a freezer into the mains

But a judge at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday accepted that Graham Geoffrey Harkin could only be made to pay back £10,000 of his ill gotten gains under the Proceeds of Crime Act because the only asset he has is his £10,000 share of the house he co-owns with his wife in Yorkshire.

And more than £5,500 of that will have to go to paying off what’s left of a £12,000 bill with which he was left after a string of similar crimes in West Yorkshire.

Harkin, a 59-year-old grandfather, is serving nine years in prison for what a judge last year described as “the looting of our history”.

If he fails to pay the £10,000 within six months he will spend an extra four months in jail.

One of the properties Harkin targeted was Levens Hall, the historic house near Kendal.

And it was his involvement in the theft of a £200,000 carriage clock from there that eventually led to his arrest in connection with a string of other crimes.

When he was sentenced last year the court heard that although he did not actually commit the Levens burglary himself, Harkin – who used his membership of the National Trust to recce some of the properties he raided – “cased the joint” four days before by joining a lunchtime tour of the house.

That allowed him to decide what items should be taken and see how they were protected by the alarm systems.

Harkin was involved in thefts and burglaries at historic houses all over the Britain. He pleaded guilty to burgling two historic houses — Longner Hall in Shropshire, and Firle Place, a country estate in Sussex, from which he took porcelain worth about £1m — and handling the clock stolen from Levens Hall.

Two other charges — burgling a property in Cornwall and stealing a £50,000 sundial from Dalemain House, near Penrith — were left lying on the court file.

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