A 43-YEAR-old Evesham man caught trying to sell two bronze statues worth £50,000 that had been stolen from a Cotswolds manor house has been jailed for two years and four months.

Gloucester Crown Court was told that the owner of the bronzes, Alex Puddy, saw them listed in an auctioneer's catalogue online and called the police.

Enquiries revealed they had been entered for auction by Anthony Reeve, of Craven Court, Church Street, Evesham, after the burglary of Taddington Manor at Cutsdean, near Northleach, in May 2018.

It was thanks to Mr Puddy, managing director of Architectural Heritage Ltd, spotting them that Reeve's criminal plan was thwarted.

One of the statues was of Mercury and the other of a reclining female nude.

Prosecutor Grace Flynn said: “Some 24 hours after the theft Reeve and his partner went to an antique expert at Hampton community hall in Evesham with the stolen statues for a valuation and completed the paperwork for selling the items at a forthcoming auction.

“The expert, Adrian Rathbone then advertised the auction items on the internet.

“Mr Puddy spotted the statues being advertised online and informed the police. Mr Rathbone, the innocent party in all this, then returned the statues to the rightful owner.

“Mr Puddy said that the statues had been damaged when they were stolen and they cost £2,000 to repair.

“Police, using Mr Rathbone’s paperwork, were able to trace Reeve and his partner and both were arrested on June 26, 2018. They initially claimed that they bought the statues at a car boot sale.”

Reeve's partner was initially charged with involvement in the offence but the prosecution ultimately did not proceed against her.

Reeve admitted dishonestly handling stolen goods between May 9, 2018 and May 11, 2018. He also admitted a dwelling burglary in Evesham on July 10, 2019; and theft of a car on the same date.

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Ms Flynn said: “During the early hours of July 10 2019 Reeve and another man entered a property in Ivy Court, Elm Road, Evesham, that was having work done on it.

"It was not occupied at the time as the owners were staying at a local hotel while the work was being undertaken.

“The intruders gained entry by smashing the patio doors. The items stolen included two Boardman bikes and other items including a quantity of jewellery, including an engagement ring. The keys to a car were also taken and a Fiat 500 was stolen in the process. The car was later recovered.

“However Reeve’s accomplice left a foot impression on a windowsill and when this man was arrested he gave the police Reeve’s name.”

In a victim statement the family said they felt violated over the burglary and were upset over the loss of the sentimental items of jewellery.

Lee Egan, defending, said: “Reeve is not a sophisticated man. He admits he has a whole host of mental issues and has a long list of convictions.”

Judge Michael Cullum said to Reeve: “You have a long list of convictions dating back to your youth.

“You stole the statues and caused £2,000 worth of damage in the process.

“You, along with another, stole a lot of items many of which held sentimental value from the dwelling burglary in Worcester. You also stole a car, which was in effect part of the burglary.”

Judge Cullum sentenced Reeve to 28 months in prison and imposed a victim surcharge.