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Stolen artworks may end up in scrap yard

The art world has suffered thefts of two more prominent works, with it feared they could be melted down and sold for scrap metal.

The Armstrong Memorial, a tribute to Boer War hero Lieutenant George Armstrong, said to be of International importance and worth £30,000 was taken from outside a country church in Wiltshire.

This follows the removal of a five foot bronze statue of First World War veteran Sydney Mason Collins. The piece, said to be worth £15,000 was taken from St Mary’s church in Chedzoy, Somerset.

Worryingly, police believe the incidents could be linked and the gang who made off with the memorials could have been behind the theft of a £3 million Henry Moore sculpture from Hertfordshire last December.

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: “We are looking into options as to why this statue [the Armstrong Memorial] has been taken. We are investigating the possibility that the two thefts are linked and that other churches may be targeted.

“We are liaising with Avon and Somerset Police to find both statues. It is likely that we will also be talking to other forces where bronze statues have been taken.”

The Henry Moore piece, although worth millions, would fetch around £5,000 if melted down and sold for scrap. But despite an intensive police investigation that has included examining several scrap metal yards, it has yet to be recovered.

In another case, an extremely rare work by British artist Lynn Chadwick, The Watchers, was taken from Roehampton University in south west London.

Police believe the operation, which took place in January, would have involved carving the piece free and employed at least eight people to carry it.

With bronze and other types of ferrous and non-ferrous metals bringing good prices from scrap dealers, links between the spate of thefts are being investigated.

It is thought the pieces may have been taken abroad or are being kept hidden until the investigation has quietened down.

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