Man jailed after trying to steal rhino head from museum

LONDON Tue Dec 4, 2012 12:35am IST

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LONDON (Reuters) - A Londoner was sentenced to 18 months in jail on Monday after his attempt to steal a rhino head worth up to 500,000 pounds ($800,000) from a museum was thwarted by staff and visitors.

Patrick Kiely, 29, pleaded guilty to trying to steal the stuffed specimen from Castle Museum in Norwich last February, because of the high value of rhinoceros horns, which are used in southeast Asian medicine and now trade for more than gold.

Kiely was part of a gang of four who smashed a glass case containing the rhino head while an accomplice waited outside the museum in a stolen car, the Press Association reported.

"As they attempted to escape with the head, staff and visitors stood firm and would not let them leave. They dropped the head, partially damaging it, and escaped," prosecutor Peter Gair told Norwich Crown Court.

He said the rhino head dated from the late Victorian era and was worth between 300,000 and 500,000 pounds.

The museum has since replaced the rhino's damaged horn with a replica.

The use of rhinoceros horns in Chinese medicine, as well as a spreading belief in Southeast Asia that they may cure cancer, has fuelled a surge in rhino poaching this year and propelled the street value of rhino horns to $65,000 a kilogramme, making them more expensive than gold, platinum or cocaine.

($1 = 0.6213 British pounds)

(Reporting by Natalie Huet; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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