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Northern Ireland door knocker thief may have netted £10,000

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The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

Getty Images/iStockphoto

The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Armagh Cathedral

Armagh Cathedral

The array of door knockers and other items recovered by police

A bold as brass thief has had his criminal activities knocked on the head by the PSNI following the recovery of a variety of ornate door knockers, bells and other artefacts stolen because of their value.

St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh was the most high-profile target during a spate of organised thefts.

CCTV footage from the cathedral revealed a man brazenly unscrewing five 180-year-old brass door handles in broad daylight before putting them in a bag and and calmly walking away.

The PSNI in Craigavon dubbed the process of tracing the stolen items as #OperationDingaling on its Facebook page.

The Economic Crime Bureau is assisting local police in their enquiries to establish whether any money laundering has been going on via the eBay account set up to sell the stolen goods.

Lead PSNI investigator in the case Inspector Kieran Quinn told the Belfast Telegraph the main suspect in the case may have netted at least £10,000 from his illicit trade.

Police said they picked up on a modus operandi as reports of similar thefts began to filter in from across Northern Ireland.

Upwards of 60 instances of this particular type of crime were reported in Belfast, Lisburn, Dungannon, Portadown and Newry.

"What happened is that we began to notice that there was a pattern in the theft of door knockers and bells from the Victorian era at houses and churches across the country. These were being sold on eBay," Inspector Quinn explained.

"Working with the community, we came up with an address and early on January 23 we hit a house in Armagh.

"There were items seized and the information we found led to another address in Portadown, where an arrest was made.

"We seized more material there and around £10,000 in cash."

The suspect has been bailed as the PSNI completes its investigation, which has been made more complicated by the fact that the thefts have been fairly widespread.

However, Inspector Quinn said that he was confident that the chief suspect will be prosecuted once the investigation is finalised.

He added: "There have been some admissions to some of the thefts and we are still looking for aggrieved parties to identify their property."

He said that in his 25 years in the job, he had never witnessed such a "despicable" type of theft. "Would you go into a church and steal?" he asked. "This might have been viewed as low level crime, but it certainly isn't. We are looking back at this man's activities in the last year.

"The eBay account used to sell the stolen goods has processed over 750 items. The great success here is that the community co-operated very closely with the police.

"And while our enquiries are ongoing, and there may be another person involved, we believe the man we arrested is the main mover and shaker.

"He may have been going through others in order to move the stuff.

"But we are sure he was the one that orchestrated it."

He added that anyone who bought material from an eBay member called 'tinais_123' need not worry about being prosecuted.

However, they should be aware they may be in possession of stolen property, albeit unintentionly, and should contact the PSNI if they have any concerns on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 231 23/01/18.

And for those who think they may have been the victim of a crime, the PSNI said: "If you have door knobs, knockers or ding dings stolen and have not yet reported it, please call and report it as normal."

Belfast Telegraph