A £2.5 million treasure trove of historic books that were stolen in an ‘Ocean’s 11’ heist have been recovered in Romania.
The antique books, which included works by Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton and Copernicus, were taken in a raid on a London warehouse in 2017.
The gang responsible scaled the building’s roof and bored holes through the reinforced skylights before abseiling 12m (40ft) to avoid motion sensor alarms.
They then spent hours sorting through books – being stored ahead of an auction – and made off with 160 of the rarest titles.
On Wednesday the historic books were finally discovered buried under a tiled floor in a nondescript house in rural Romania.
DI Andy Durham, from the Met Police, told how his team carried out the investigation alongside police in Romania and Italy, Europol and Eurojust.
He said: “This recovery is a perfect end to this operation and is a demonstration of successful joint working.
“These books are extremely valuable, but more importantly they are irreplaceable and are of great importance to international cultural heritage.”
DI Durham praised the hard work of his team – particularly DC David Ward – for preventing the books from being “lost to the world forever”.
Details of the dramatic theft in the early hours of January 30, 2017 read like the plotline to a Bond or Mission Impossible movie.
A small team of “highly sophisticated” burglars used specialist cutting and climbing equipment to gain access to the postal transit warehouse in Feltham, London.
They ignored expensive electrical items and headed straight for the books, which were on their way to a huge auction in California.
The collection, owned by three different international dealers, included some of the most important works of the Renaissance period.
A £215,000 1566 copy of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, by astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, was the most valuable item stolen.
The thieves also made off with a 1565 illustrated edition by Galileo, a 16th-century print of Dante’s Divine Comedy and a 1651 ‘Treatise on Painting’ by Leonardo Da Vinci.
A 1505 edition of Aesop’s Fables was among the earliest works stolen.
The gang of thieves exited the warehouse by scaling the same ropes they used to gain entry.
Police investigating the raid identified the suspects as being linked to a notorious Romanian crime syndicate named the ‘Clamparu’.
The group have been behind a string of high-value warehouse burglaries across the UK.
Their modus operandi involves bringing members into the country to commit specific crimes before flying them out immediately afterwards.
Any stolen property is then smuggled out of Britain by another member using different transport methods.
In addition to the book raid another 11 offences were uncovered involving a further £2 million worth of stolen property.
Some of the other crimes use the same method of entering buildings through the roof.
Last June an international police operation saw coordinated arrests and searches at 45 addresses in the UK, Romania and Italy.
Information gleaned from these raids helped detectives locate the books earlier this week.
In the UK 13 suspects have been charged with conspiring to commit burglaries between December 2016 and April 2019, and to receive criminal property.
Twelve members of the group have admitted the offences and will be sentenced later this month.
The thirteenth defendant is due to go on trial next March.