THIEVES stole over £1million worth of irreplaceable treasure in a raid at Arundel Castle as police hunted the burglars today.
Items including priceless gold rosary beads carried by Mary Queen of Scots at her execution were taken from the castle in West Sussex.
Castle staff were alerted to a break in on May 21 after an alarm sounded, before discovering gold and silver items worth in excess of £1 million had been taken from the display cabinet.
Alongside the priceless beads belonging to Mary Queen of Scots before her execution in 1587, several coronation cups given by the Sovereign to the Earl Marshal of the day were stolen from Arundal Castle.
The rosary is of little intrinsic value as metal, but as a piece of the Howard family history and the nation’s heritage it is irreplaceable, experts claimed today.
Despite police being at Arundel Castle just minutes after the alarm sounded at 10.30pm, the thieves had used force to take Gold and Silver items from a display cabinet along the public route.
A spokesman for Arundel Castle Trustees said: “The stolen items have significant monetary value, but as unique artefacts of the Duke of Norfolk’s collection have immeasurably greater and priceless historical importance.
“We therefore urge anyone with information to come forward to the police to assist them in returning these treasures back where they belong.”
Today, police were examining a 4×4 saloon which was found abandoned and on fire in nearby Barlavington a short while later, to establish whether it is connected to the burglary.
Detective Constable Molly O’Malley of Chichester CID said: “If you were in Arundel on Friday evening and saw any suspicious activity around the area of the Castle, please contact us.
“In addition, the castle only re-opened to visitors on May 18 so if you were visiting during the past few days do you on reflection recall anyone behaving at all suspiciously?
“If you are offered or hear of anyone offering for sale any of the items stolen, we would also like to hear from you.”
The 18-carat loo was nicked in the early hours of a Saturday morning – just two days after going on display at Winston Churchill’s birthplace in Woodstock, Oxon.
The palace’s chief executive Dominic Hare said he feared the fully-functioning masterpiece, created by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, could’ve been destroyed by opportunist thieves.