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In April last year the National Automated Fingerprint Identification System (NAFIS) finally gave the police the break they needed in a case that started with the raid in May 1994.

NAFIS, which enables forces throughout the country to carry out checks on prints they have been unable to identify, showed that a single thumb print from sticky sheeting placed over a window broken to gain access to Luton Hoo belonged to Yukrain Stokes, a 36-year-old father of three who had joined the gang after running up a £5000 drug debt. He was jailed for three years for his part in the crime.

Yukrain is thought to have played only a minor part in the raid which netted £225,000 worth of valuables – now thought to be worth over £500,000 – including presentation boxes, cigarette cases, perfume bottles, lipstick cases and a bowl alone worth £85,000.

The gang took advantage of the stately home’s security system after they learnt that there was a 40-minute delay between the security guard turning off the alarm at 7am each day as he started his rounds and his arrival at the last room to be opened up – the Fabergé room.

The items in the room formed part of the Wernher Collection and had been brought to the house by Lady Zia Wernher, a granddaughter of the late Russian Tsar.

It is thought that the pieces taken during the raid were probably stolen to order and were flown out of the country within hours – possibly to Russia.

Yukrain, who pleaded guilty to the burglary, will be visited by police in prison in the next few weeks to see if he can help them track the rest of the gang.