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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Art thief helps aristocrats
The Marquess of Bath
Lord Bath approached Mr Duddin via an agent
A convicted art thief has turned bounty hunter to help recover 10m worth of art stolen from the homes of two aristocrats.

David Duddin - who was convicted of stealing a 400,000 Rembrandt painting - has been using underworld contacts to try to recover two paintings owned by the Marquess of Bath and Marquess of Cholmondeley.

Mr Duddin, who lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was approached while in prison by a former police officer to help the aristocrats.

But the idea has been criticised by a top policeman as "fuelling crime".


This sort of deal is rewarding criminal activity

David Raine, chairman of the Northumbria Police Federation

The Marquesses of Bath and Cholmondeley turned to Mr Duddin through an agent after paintings were stolen from their collections in 1992 and 1995.

Lord Bath - owner of the Longleat estate in Wiltshire - lost Titan's Rest on the Flight to Egypt, valued at 5m.

In 1992, The White Duck by Jean-Baptiste Oudry was taken from the Houghton Hall estate in Norfolk, owned by the Marquess of Cholmondeley.

The work is also valued at 5m.

Mr Duddin told BBC News Online he was approached by former policeman Charles Hill in 1999 while he was serving time.

"Since I have been released I have made what I thought would be fruitful inquiries with contacts, but obviously these have failed so far.

'Tried everything'

"What I am doing is totally legitimate. It is not my job to catch criminals, that is the job of the police.

"I just want to recover the paintings, I certainly would not want to be involved in catching those responsible."

The White Duck, by Jean-Baptiste Oudry
The White Duck was stolen in 1992

If he recovered the two paintings, Mr Duddin would stand to get a reward of 200,000.

Mr Hill, who runs a company dedicated to finding stolen and lost works of art, told BBC News Online Mr Duddin was not being paid for his efforts.

He said the reward money would go to Mr Duddin if he recovered the paintings, but that the same would apply to anyone.

Mr Hill, former Detective Chief Inspector of the London Metropolitan Police said: "I approached him to ask if he would consider helping us to get them back and he said he would be happy to help.

"Lord Bath and the Marquess of Cholmondeley have tried everything with the police, insurers to no avail.

"Anyone who can work within the law and get the pictures back is worth a try.

'Wait forever'

"Whatever we can do and whoever we can speak to to retrieve these pieces then we will do.

"You either deal with someone who knows what he is talking about or you might as well get in touch with the Archangel Gabriel. You could wait forever for something to happen."

As a serving police officer Mr Hill participated in a series of covert investigations to recover stolen works of art, including an operation in 1994 which led to the retrieval of Munch's "Scream" for the National Gallery of Norway.

David Raine, chairman of the Northumbria Police Federation, criticised Mr Duddin's involvement.

He said: "This sort of deal is rewarding criminal activity.

"By paying someone who has been involved in crime to solve crime is simply fuelling further crime."


Click here to go to Tyne
See also:

28 May 02 | Wales
18 May 02 | Europe
16 May 02 | Entertainment
25 Apr 02 | Entertainment
02 Apr 02 | England
27 Feb 02 | England
31 Jan 02 | Entertainment
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