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Police are appealing for information to help track down criminals involved in a shocking raid on the three-day Petworth Park Antiques & Fine Art Fair.

Jewellery and cash valued at around £830,000 was stolen by thieves using a pick-up truck and a sports utility vehicle after they ram-raided the fair marquee in the grounds at Petworth House, West Sussex, at around 3.30am on Sunday, May 12. The target of the raid was the 400kg safe where valuable dealers’ stock and cash was held overnight.

Sussex Police said thieves used the vehicles (stolen in Kent and since recovered) to smash through the gates to the National Trust estate at an entrance off the A283 London Road (not the main fair entrance).

They then drove across the 700-acre estate to the marquee close to the house where the fair, hosting around 50 exhibitors, takes place.

Ingrid Nilson, director of Petworth fair organiser The Antiques Dealers Fair Limited (ADFL), was swiftly alerted to the raid by the event’s security firm and was on site by 4am.

She said: “It was quick and well organised, obviously by professional criminals. Sussex police were there within minutes of the perpetrators leaving.” A third vehicle believed to have been used by the offenders, a silver BMW reported stolen from Wiltshire, is still being sought.

Few details have been made available about the stolen jewellery believed to primarily the stock of three dealers. However, one victim provided two images of missing rings.

Det Insp Pauline Lane is leading the investigation and asks anyone with information to contact Sussex Police quoting Operation Snowman. The case is not currently part of any wider investigation into other thefts.

The fair’s final day went ahead as planned on Sunday, May 12. “It was dealt with in the most professional way by Ingrid, the police and the fair’s security team,” said Emma Duveen of Duveen Art & Antiques. “The exhibitors felt incredibly supported by Ingrid and her team throughout the day.”

It was quick and well organised, obviously by professional criminals

Dealers reported that the fair, in its fifth edition this year, was otherwise successful with strong sales across all of the three trading days.

See Dealers’ Diary.