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Stolen £1m painting returned to owners

The artwork was swiped from a gallery in 2012.

A £1 million painting stolen six years ago has been returned to its owners after it was discovered in a drug dealer’s den.

The work, by Sir Stanley Spencer and titled Cookham from Englefield, was taken from the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Berkshire, in 2012.

Its whereabouts remained a mystery until police arrested Harry Fisher, 28, in June last year after finding a kilogram of cocaine and £30,000 in cash in his Mercedes.

Officers discovered the artwork under a bed next to three kilograms of cocaine and 15,000 ecstasy tablets when they searched his flat in Kingston-upon-Thames, west London.

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Sir Stanley Spencer at work in his studio in Cookham (PA)

A further raid on his family home in Fulham found more Class A drugs, making a total street value of £450,000, and £40,000 in cash.

Fisher was jailed for eight years and eight months at Kingston Crown Court in October, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and handling stolen goods, Scotland Yard said.

His passenger at the time of arrest, Zak Lal, 32, of Rochester, Kent, was jailed for five years and eight months after admitting conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and possession of an offensive weapon, police said.

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Jailed: Harry Fisher (left) and Zak Lal (Met Police/PA)

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the painting’s owners, who were “devastated” at the loss, were finally reunited with the artwork last month.

Arts Minister Michael Ellis said: “Spencer is one our most renowned painters and a true great of the 20th century. It is wonderful that this story has had a happy ending and the painting has been returned to its rightful owners.”

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The £1 million stolen painting by Sir Stanley Spencer (Met Police/PA)

Detective Constable Sophie Hayes, of the Metropolitan Police’s art and antiques unit, said: “The art and antiques unit was delighted to assist with the recovery and return of this important painting.

“The circumstances of its recovery underline the links between cultural heritage crime and wider criminality.

“The fact that the painting was stolen five years before it was recovered did not hinder a prosecution for handling stolen goods, demonstrating the Met will pursue these matters wherever possible, no matter how much time has elapsed.”

Described by the Stanley Spencer Gallery gallery as one of “our greatest British artists”, Sir Stanley often used the Berkshire village of Cookham as inspiration for his work during a 45-year career.

He died in 1959.

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