Thieves stole 'priceless' Henry Moore sculpture for scrap metal and sold it for just 46… because they had no idea of true value
Liam Hughes, 22, and Jason Parker, 19, stole the Working Model for Sundial from the artist's former home in JulyThey sold the piece – valued at around half a million pounds, to a scrap dealer for 46Pair returned to the Henry Moore Foundation four days later and made off with a bronze plinth worth 100,000, which they sold for 182.60Hughes and Parker both given 12 month jail terms at St Albans Crown Court today

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UPDATED:

18:49 GMT, 4 December 2012

Two thieves who stole a 'priceless' artwork by the sculptor Henry Moore and sold it at a scrapyard for 46 have each been jailed for a year.

Liam Hughes, 22, and 19-year-old Jason Parker stole the Working Model for Sundial – believed to be worth around half a million pounds – from the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire.

The pair returned to the artist's former home four days later and tore another sculpture, known as Upright Motive Number 7, from its bronze plinth before making off with the base, which was valued at 100,000. They sold it as scrap for 182.60.

'Selfish': Jason Parker, 19, and Liam Hughes, 22, both from Essex, admitted stealing a Henry Moore sculpture worth around 500,000 and selling it at a scrapyard for 46

'Selfish': Jason Parker, 19, and Liam Hughes, 22, both from Essex, admitted stealing a Henry Moore sculpture worth around 500,000 and selling it at a scrapyard for 46

Henry Moore is widely regarded as one of the most important British artists of the 20th Century, and his creations have fetched millions at auction. Neither of the men had any idea of the true value of what they had taken, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Sentencing the pair today, Judge
Marie Catterson said: 'The value of Sundial is put at something like
half a million pounds, but the truth is it is actually priceless because
it cannot be replaced should it be lost.

'These
actions were utterly selfish thefts. You were stealing these items for a
pittance as scrap regardless of any damage or impact your actions might
have on others.

'You took
the risk of causing immense damage to the Henry Moore Foundation and you
were risking the permanent destruction of the items that, certainly in
the case of Sundial, are irreplaceable works of art,' the judge added.

Stolen: Parker and Hughes took Sundial from the grounds of Henry Moore's former home in Hertfordshire

Stolen: Parker and Hughes took Sundial from the grounds of Henry Moore's former home in Hertfordshire

When the scrapdealer who had
unwittingly bought the items saw an appeal for their safe return on the
television programme Crimewatch, he contacted police and returned both
pieces before they were destroyed.

Parker and Hughes, both from
Coltsfield in Stansted, Essex, pleaded guilty last month to stealing the
22-inch tall Sundial piece overnight on July 10. They also admitted
returning to steal the plinth from another piece between July 15 and 16.

'Irreplaceable': The artist Henry Moore, who died in 1986, pictured with Sundial

'Irreplaceable': The artist Henry Moore, who died in 1986, pictured with Sundial

The cost of repairing the damage to the artwork the pair tore from the bronze plinth, together with other necessary security works, is estimated at 13,000, the court heard.

John Carmichael, prosecuting, added that the thefts had damaged the Henry Moore Foundation's standing in the international art world.

'Perhaps of more significance to the members of the Foundation is that sculptures had to be taken from public view, taken from access,' he said.

'The Foundation is concerned that this weakens its position in the international market.

'If the reputation is that they cannot look after their own works, why would it be safe for them to look after other works.

'Henry Moore is an artist who stipulated that no further works should be made from the casts of his works, so if they disappear and are melted down, that is it,' he added.

Carlo Coccaro, in mitigation for Hughes, said the 22 year old 'wishes to apologise' for the thefts.

He said: 'They decided to take the metal from that location because they had been told it was a target for theft. It was never their intention to take it for its artistic value.

Charles Snelling, in mitigation for Parker, said his client was 'drifting into delinquency' and had been hit hard by his girlfriend’s miscarriage, which happened shortly before the theft.

Parker and Hughes were each given a 12 month jail term, which Parker will serve in a young offenders' institution.