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Colin Welsh, aged 31, of Manor Park, East London, was accused of being one of a pair caught on camera at the scene. But he denied being involved.

The stolen memorabilia, valued at between £13,000 and £23,000, was part of a large collection being sold by the family of record-breaking Rugby League international Jim Sullivan, a one-time British Lions captain and Wigan player, whose career spanned the years 1921 to 1946.

The court heard how two men had gained access to the rear of Sotheby’s through a fire door in June last year and were later captured on a security camera leaving with bags stuffed with the items.

Welsh was arrested in January after a police officer identified him from still photographs of the video kept in a book of mugshots of suspects, but Welsh, who denies one charge of burglary, claims it was a case of mistaken identity.

The stolen items included league and Challenge Cup medals, a silver rosebowl awarded for the record points Sullivan scored in 1923, silver plated rugby ball-shaped trophies from 1932 and 1937, silver teaspoons and a silver condiment set awarded during tours of New Zealand.

Also stolen were antique international rugby shirts and a number of engraved boomerangs.