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DC Dave Pellatt from Surrey Police and Caroline Sones, house manager at Clandon Park, with the returned Derby porcelain plaque.

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The items were recovered from a pawnbroker in Hatton Gardens, London, having been stolen from National Trust properties Clandon Park, Guildford, and Petworth House in West Sussex.

Paul Whiting, 68, originally from Hammersmith, west London, appeared at Guildford Crown Court on February 6 where he was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for the theft of the porcelain plaque from Clandon Park in May 2013 and the theft of the plates from Petworth in February 2012. The sentence is to run concurrently to a sentence he is already serving for a theft at a National Trust property in Hertfordshire.

Surrey Police told ATG: "A key piece of evidence to convict Whiting came from CCTV images of him when he took the porcelain plaque to Bonhams auctioneers in New Bond Street for a valuation. John Sandon and Fergus Gambon were working that day at the auctioneers and carried out an inspection of the item.

"A few days later, Mr Sandon read an article in the Antiques Trade Gazette regarding the theft of the plaque from Clandon Park and recognised the piece as being the one he had recently examined. CCTV was produced from Bonhams of the meeting and circulated to other police forces.

"An officer from Hertfordshire saw the stills and recognised Whiting as someone he had arrested for a burglary at a National Trust house in West Wycombe Park in June 2013. Officers from Surrey Police interviewed Whiting in prison and subsequently charged him."