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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 December 2005, 13:58 GMT
Sculpture theft lorry recovered
Henry Moore sculpture
Henry Moore's Reclining Figure is considered a "national treasure"
Police hunting thieves who stole a Henry Moore sculpture worth 3m have recovered the lorry they believe was used by the gang.

The Mercedes vehicle, which had been stolen from Royston about an hour before the theft, was located in Coopersale near Epping, Essex.

The bronze Reclining Figure was stolen from the grounds of the Perry Green estate in Much Hadham, on Thursday.

Hertfordshire Police fear it could be melted down and sold as scrap.

'Substantial' reward

Det Sgt Graeme Smith said on Sunday: "A member of the public reported seeing the lorry with the sculpture on the back on Thursday night.

"The lorry was seen in Southern Way junction with Parkington Road, Harlow, Essex.

"We are appealing for members of public who live in or travel through these areas, to contact police if they saw this vehicle."

CCTV cameras filmed the three raiders as they used a crane to lift the two-tonne piece onto the lorry.

Melted down as scrap the sculpture would only have a value of about 5,000.

The Henry Moore Foundation, which owns the sculpture and has offered a "substantial" reward for its return, has begun a review of its security.

The theft alone has caused a great deal of upset, but the thought of it being melted down is worse
Gareth Spence

Chief Inspector Richard Harbon said police classed the sculpture as a "national treasure" and detectives from Hertfordshire were working with the Metropolitan Police's Fine Arts Squad.

He added: "It is a nationally-renowned sculpture and very, very difficult to get rid of.

"This is not opportunist theft. These are people who knew what they were doing, knew what they were after. A very, very audacious theft."

A second vehicle used in the theft was a Daihatsu four-wheel drive with spotlights at the front.

Foundation spokesman Gareth Spence said: "It is quite a daring thing to do, and it will cause a reassessment of our security process.

"Obviously, we are very upset and disappointed.

"The theft alone has caused a great deal of upset, but the thought of it being melted down is worse."

Considered by many to be the most outstanding British sculptor of the century, Moore died at 88 in August 1986.

See CCTV pictures of the statue being stolen

Moore sculpture 'could be melted'
18 Dec 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
3m Henry Moore sculpture stolen
17 Dec 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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