‘Irreplaceable’ 17th Century banister destroyed after businessman pulled it from wall of Victoria & Albert museum


The Telegraph

‘Irreplaceable’ 17th Century banister destroyed after businessman pulled it from a wall of Victoria & Albert Museum

2 MAY 2018

Victoria and Albert Museum main entrance CREDIT: VIEW PICTURES/UIG VIA GETTY IMAGES

The relic, worth £1000, was particularly popular with the blind, who use the space to experience the art through touch, Hendon magistrates heard yesterday.

The oak baluster dates from 1670-1680 and was intended to be a handrail with a spiral central section finely carved in the Restoration style.

A Victoria and Albert spokeswoman told The Telegraph it would have been made by turning the wood on a special lathe, and the piece has been a part of the museum’s permanent collection for 112 years.

She said: “However, it has been an important part of the display in the British Gallery as it gives visitors the chance to physically feel the quality of the work done by craftsmen three hundred years ago.

“It was a particularly important part of the visitor experience for our blind guests. We run a programme of events tailored for blind and partially sighted visitors which focus on the touch objects.

“The information sign which accompanied the baluster was also written in braille so that blind visitors could learn more about the piece.”

Despite admitting that it was his handwriting that signed the guestbook to gain access to this area, Said denied it was him who broke the artifact.

He told police: “I’m being arrested for something I didn’t do.” The authorities traced him using his address and signed a message that he left in the V&A guestbook

But after failing to appear for trial, the businessman of Kensington, West London, was convicted of one count of criminal damage and an arrest warrant has now been issued.

Angela O’Dwyer, prosecuting, said: “This item is what’s known as a ‘touching object’ – members of the public are permitted and even encouraged to touch it.

“But he goes much further than that and pulls it off the wall and it breaks into pieces.

Said, who currently lives in an EasyJet hotel, was convicted of assault last year and has also received a suspended jail sentence for making death threats in Croatia.

He even “posed” for the CCTV cameras at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London while looking at objects in a special “touching” area, Hendon Magistrates court was told.

His actions have meant that he faces a ban from the V&A and its affiliated museums once the police locate him for sentencing.

Repairing the damage to the relic, which was particularly popular with both blind and disabled visitors, will require specialists.

District Judge Helen Clarke said: “It’s an irreplaceable item given its age and specialist repair is going to be needed.”

The museum’s spokeswoman added: “The V&A takes the security of our visitors, staff, objects, buildings, information, and reputation extremely seriously.”

Police allege son flew from England to damage $3 million painting in Aspen owned by his family



Police allege son flew from England to damage $3 million painting in Aspen owned by his family

Judge issues arrest warrant for suspect in 2017 art slashing

A screenshot from surveillance cameras inside an Aspen art gallery show the suspect right before he slashed a nearly $3 million painting in May 2017. An arrest warrant was issued this week for the suspect, who is from England and has family ties to the painting, according to law enforcement. 

A $3 million painting slashed by a knife-wielding man nearly a year ago at an Aspen art gallery was vandalized by the son of the painting’s owner, according to law enforcement sources and court documents.

Nicholas Morley, 40, of England was charged Wednesday with felony criminal mischief in connection with the bizarre incident, and a Pitkin County District Court judge signed a warrant for Morley’s arrest the same day.

Morley is the same man convicted 10 years ago of crashing into and killing an elderly couple in Macedonia during the running of a European car race for the wealthy called the Gumball 3000 Rally. He was referred to in news articles about the incident as a millionaire playboy property developer.

“He is the person charged with directly damaging this painting,” Aspen prosecutor Don Nottingham said Wednesday night.

Aspen police discovered records and video surveillance showing that Morley flew from London to Denver under an assumed name May 1, the day before the slashing, rented a car at the Denver airport then flew back to London two days after the slashing, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court.

Morley did not return a phone message or an email Thursday seeking comment. Aspen attorney Ryan Kalamaya confirmed Thursday that he represents Morley, but declined to comment further. Morley’s whereabouts are unknown, Nottingham said.

The painting slashing occurred May 2 at the height of Aspen’s quiet, spring offseason when a man wearing sunglasses, black jeans, a black jacket, a hat and a full beard entered the Opera Gallery at the base of Aspen Mountain at 4:16 p.m.

The slightly built man wore a glove on his left hand, which he used to open the door and drop a 15 inch-by-4 inch piece of wood inside the gallery’s front door frame as he entered, according to the affidavit and video of the incident released by the Aspen Police Department.

A woman working in the gallery told police she saw the man after he entered, greeted him and asked how she could help him, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

“(The gallery employee) stated the man looked at her with a ‘surprised’ look,” the affidavit says.

However, the man never stopped and instead walked directly up to an 8½ foot-by-6½ foot painting called “Untitled 2004” by New York artist Christopher Wool, which was hanging on the wall opposite the entrance, according to the video and the employee’s account of the incident. The suspect then used his ungloved hand to take a knife or other cutting object out of his jacket pocket, slash the Wool painting twice, then turned around and ran out of the gallery, grabbing the piece of wood with his gloved hand on the way out, according to the employee’s account and the video.

Video surveillance footage from other cameras in the downtown core caught the man running east past City Market and disappearing into the neighborhoods in Aspen’s east end, police have said.


The painting was the sole item being sold on consignment at the gallery at that time, Opera Gallery owner Gregory Lahmi has said. It was listed for sale at $2.95 million amid other works in the gallery by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Marc Chagall.

The incident prompted Lahmi to recall three phone calls he had received in the weeks prior to the slashing that was variously described as “strange,” “suspicious” and “bizarre,” according to the affidavit.

The first occurred at the beginning of April 2017 when a man with a blocked phone number called the gallery’s main line and asked if they had any works by Andy Warhol or Christopher Wool, the affidavit states. The second took place April 16, 2017, when a man asked questions about the gallery itself, including whether Lahmi was alone, if the Wool painting was being exhibited, how a person would enter the gallery and if the front door was closed, according to the document.

The man declined to identify himself during the second call, though the questions he posed at that time prompted Lahmi to believe he was talking to the Wool painting’s owner, the affidavit states.

The third call happened April 26, 2017, when a man called, asked if the Wool painting was still available and said he would be in next week to see it, though he again declined to give his name, the affidavit states. Lahmi told police he believed the same man with a “slight British accent” called all three times. Lahmi also said the Wool painting was not listed online, only known to be available to a handful of collectors and that “Wool’s artwork was a specific taste in the art industry,” according to the affidavit.


Aspen Police soon discovered after the incident the painting was owned by Harold Morley, 74, of Barbados, through a trust called Fallowfield Ltd.

Harold Morley told an Aspen police detective days after the incident that few people in the world knew about his connection to the Wool painting. He also said that he and his son, Nicholas, owned Fallowfield, a holding company that bought and sold art out of Barbados, the affidavit states.

In a subsequent conversation on May 9, 2017, Harold Morley changed his story and told the detective that Nicholas Morley was not a co-owner of the trust. Instead, he said “that Nicholas just took care of a few contracts for Harold when asked,” according to the affidavit.

In the case of the Wool painting, Nicholas Morley “just signed for the consignment,” Harold Morley said, according to the document. Harold Morley also said that neither he nor his son recognized the suspect in the painting slashing.

On May 5, 2017, Harold Morley sent a letter to the Opera Gallery stating that the painting “can be easily restored” and that he did not plan on filing an insurance claim. Further, he asked the gallery to put out a statement “refuting” an Aspen Times story about the slashing “and stating that it was only a minor incident,” according to the affidavit, which quoted the letter.

“In the same vein the police investigation should be calmed down and they be quickly informed that Fallowfield is very relaxed about the whole affair since Wool is an appreciating asset and the repairs will be all but invisible,” Harold Morley’s letter states, according to the affidavit.

The letter also requested that Opera Gallery staff “play the whole affair down as over-enthusiastic reporting,” the affidavit states.

“It is a shame that as owners we were not consulted before the news story went public,” the letter states.

A day later, Harold Morley wrote a text message to the gallery’s manager, asking to “defuse any idea that the painting is destroyed or even devalued,” according to the affidavit. He said he wanted to block or remove the online video of the slashing, restore the painting, sell it and “if asked by anyone we laugh it off as actually making the work intrinsically more valuable.”

“We could even put it up for sale now for $3.5m on the basis it is ‘famous,’” Harold Morley wrote, according to the affidavit. “Since we are not making an insurance claim there is no reason why the recollection of the incident should not be eliminated as quickly as possible from staff and public.

“Then it just becomes ‘folklore.’”

An email sent Thursday to Harold Morley from The Aspen Times was not returned.

On May 10, Nicholas Morley wrote an email to the gallery manager, saying that Fallowfield did not plan on holding Opera Gallery liable for the slashing incident. He also made a couple of requests.

“It would appear possible based on the video footage (and is our judgment) that this was an accident rather than malicious damage,” he wrote, according to the affidavit. “(We) kindly suggest that Opera either A: issue a press release that the incident was, in fact, an accident, or B: issue no further press comments.”

Finally, Morley suggested, “that the Police Investigator be advised accordingly with our mutual wishes and the incident be reclassified.”


On May 18, 2017, Aspen police spoke with a corporate security agent for Delta Airlines, who reported that Nicholas Morley had flown from London’s Heathrow Airport to Minneapolis-St. Paul on May 1, according to the affidavit. He booked the ticket and flew under the name “Nikola Marley,” through an airport gate agent caught the discrepancy when Morley checked in and presented a passport with his real name on it.

Morley was fingerprinted upon entry into the United States on May 1, and his passport number was recorded, according to a Homeland Security agent quoted in the affidavit.

Morley then continued on another Delta flight from Minneapolis to Denver. Detectives with the Minneapolis airport police and the Denver airport police both found video footage of Morley arriving at the locations, the affidavit states.

Further, the Denver airport police detective discovered that Morley rented a blue 2017 Hyundai Velostar at the Denver airport under the name Nikola Marley. He returned the car on May 4 after driving 246 miles, according to an Alamo Rent-A-Car representative quoted in the affidavit.

“It should be noted that a one-way trip from Denver to Aspen is approximately 223 miles,” the affidavit states.

Nottingham, the prosecutor, declined to comment about the discrepancy. However, others close to the investigation said the fact that Morley’s rental car did not travel far enough to go to Aspen and back to Denver coupled with a lack of any official hint of his presence in Aspen was one of the reasons the investigation took nearly a year.

Morley flew from Denver to Minneapolis on May 4, then continued on to London, according to the affidavit.

Aspen Detective Ritchie Zah confirmed that Morley used a business credit card registered to himself to pay for the rental car, that he stayed one night at the Ramada Inn on Colfax Avenue in Denver and that he sent an email from the Ramada hotel, the affidavit states. He used his wife’s credit card to pay for the Ramada room, though she later told Aspen police that neither she nor her husband had been to the United States recently and that she didn’t use the card on May 1 or authorize her husband to use it.

Lastly, the person who saw the man slash the painting identified Morley as the person who did it after seeing his picture online. The person reported getting “the chills” when viewing his photo and pointed out his “crooked nose, his jawline and the lighter colored mustache” as proof that it was him, the affidavit states.


Zah spoke with Morley on May 9, 2017, and he denied that he had been in the United States that month, according to the affidavit. He said he did not remember the last time he had visited the United States though he thought it was earlier that year, possibly in January or February.

Morley is charged with criminal mischief between $1,000 and $5,000, which is the lowest level felony in Colorado criminal law. That charge is because it cost between $1,900 and $2,500 to repair the painting, according to the affidavit.

Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin signed Morley’s arrest warrant Wednesday and ordered that he be held in lieu of a $50,000 cash-only bond when arrested.

In 2007, Morley was at the wheel of a Porsche 911 that was participating in the Gumball 3000 Rally, a car race with a more than $50,000 entrance fee and ran from London to Istanbul and back, according to media reports. Morley, variously identified as a property developer, a millionaire, and a playboy, crashed into a car carrying an elderly couple in Macedonia during the race, killing both.

Evidence accepted by a judge in his case indicated Morley was driving 100 mph at the time, though his family later released a statement disputing that and saying he was going 47 mph. Morley spent 40 days in a Macedonian prison before being convicted of the deaths.

He received a two-year suspended sentence for the conviction and was allowed to return to London, according to media reports. Morley later told a Manchester newspaper he couldn’t have avoided the crash and said he was not a millionaire or a playboy.

Vandal who punched €9m Monet to be extradited on art theft charge



Vandal who punched €9m Monet to be extradited on art theft charge

Andrew Shannon damaging the Monet in the National Gallery in 2012
Andrew Shannon damaging the Monet in the National Gallery in 2012

A criminal who was previously jailed for damaging a €9m Monet painting at the National Gallery is due to be extradited from England today to face fresh charges here.

Andrew Shannon (53) has been serving a short sentence in England for burglary.

It can now be revealed that gardai are traveling to London today to escort him back to Dublin after a European arrest warrant was issued against him.

The warrant relates to the theft of a painting at a hotel in Co Cork, which was discovered by Pearse Street gardai when they raided his home in Ongar, west Dublin, in April 2014 and seized around 60 artworks.

Investigations have established that Shannon was allegedly staying at the hotel when the painting was stolen.

Shannon has 35 previous criminal convictions in Ireland for offenses including theft and burglary, as well as convictions for similar offenses in the UK.

His latest conviction here dates from June 2016, when he was jailed for six months after he was caught with 57 stolen antique books, including an extremely rare King James Bible, worth a total of €6,500.

Dublin Circuit Court heard that the 57 stolen books had originated in the library of Carton House in Kildare, the historical seat of the FitzGerald family.

However, Shannon’s most notable criminal conviction was when he received four-and-a-half years in jail for damaging the Claude Monet painting Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat (1874) at the National Gallery of Ireland on Clare Street, Dublin, on June 29, 2012.

Shannon was captured on CCTV moving forward in the direction of the painting with his arm raised and striking the artwork, causing a substantial tear.

The State’s case was that the damage was premeditated and deliberate.

Shannon, however, contended that he had fallen accidentally after suffering a coronary episode.

Eyewitnesses from New Zealand said they saw Shannon punch the painting and expert evidence established the force of the blow.

Shannon, who has previous convictions for stealing from stately homes in England as well as for handling stolen property involving maps dating from 1651 with a value of €6,000, is not connected to organized crime gangs here.

However, he has been a major target for gardai for years.

Light-fingered man steals thumb of ancient terracotta warrior during museum party

The Art Newspaper

GABRIELLA ANGELETI19th February 2018 17:59 GMT

Light-fingered man steals thumb of ancient terracotta warrior during museum party

China’s Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre says it will reconsider its loan policy after the “noxious incident”

Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor (until 4 March) at The Franklin Institute

Terracotta Warriors of the First Emperor (until 4 March) at The Franklin Institute The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.

An American man was charged with theft and concealment of an important work of art after stealing the thumb of an ancient Chinese terracotta warrior statue at the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia. Michael Rohana was recorded on security cameras taking a selfie with the statue before breaking off its left thumb during an after-hours “ugly Christmas sweater” party at the museum on 21 December. The 2,000-year-old statue is one of ten works on loan from the Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Centre, which told Chinese media that it had never experienced “such a noxious incident”.

The Philadelphia museum noticed the thumb missing on 8 January and got the FBI involved, who arrested Rohana on 13 January in his home in Delaware, where the thumb was being kept in a desk drawer. Rohana, who was released on bail, is also charged with transporting stolen property through state lines.

The statue, on view in an exhibition of terracotta warriors at the museum (until 4 March), belongs to a clay army of around 8,000 soldiers, horses and other figures discovered in Xian in the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang. It carries an estimated value of $4.5m. The Shaanxi museum says it will reconsider its loan policy after the incident and are now assessing the cost of repairing the damage.