The 18 jade items had a collective value of over a million poundsLouis Ashworth with permission for Varsity

Police have said they will no longer be actively looking for millions of pounds worth of jade stolen from the Fitzwilliam museum 12 years ago.

Thieves stole 18 jade items after breaking into the Cambridge museum at about 19:30 on 13 April 2012, in a raid that lasted just a few minutes.

But the artifacts which date from the Ming and Qing dynasties and are worth millions of pounds are still yet to be recovered.

Cambridgeshire Police have confirmed that the recovery operation is no longer “active”.

Art theft expert Christopher Marinello, who has been following the aftermath of the theft, told the BBC that it’s been “disappointing that nothing has been recovered”.

“We fully expect these items have been embedded in the Chinese market and we probably won’t see them again in our lifetime.

“None of them have hit the marketplace as these things usually do.”

“Thieves quickly try to monetise such things”, but he maintained that “once they are in Asia, you can quickly say goodbye to seeing them again”.

The expert claimed that the items were likely purchased by private Chinese collectors as “the Chinese market loves jade”.

“This isn’t a case of repatriation of cultural heritage. In my view these items were stolen by common thugs who had Chinese buyers,” Marinello said.

“People sometimes romanticise art theft - but it’s just for cash - they had a buyer,” he said.

Marinello has no hope that any of the Fitzwilliam items are likely to surface “until a relative of whoever has them decides they don’t like jade and wants to sell - but that won’t be anytime soon”.

This comes despite Tim Knox, the director of the Fitzwilliam museum in 2016, then remaining optimistic that the artefacts could be retrieved.


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Knox said at the time: “They’re very well-known. They’re impossible to sell on the open market.

“I have every confidence that they’ll eventually come back to us. They’re probably under someone’s bed to tell you the truth.”

A spokesperson from the Fitzwilliam Museum declined to comment on whether it was still searching for the items. They told the BBC: “The theft of the jade from the Fitzwilliam Museum is still a live, open case and as such we wouldn’t be able to comment.”

Cambridgeshire Police also confirmed the case was still open, but added: “While this case isn’t active, we will investigate any further lines of inquiry should they come to light in the future.”