Curved Neck Grace sculpture by John W Mills worth tens of thousands of pounds recovered – seven years after being stolen from St Ippolyts garden

Curved Neck Grace, a bronze horse sculpture worth tens of thousands of pounds, has been recovered by

Curved Neck Grace, a bronze horse sculpture worth tens of thousands of pounds, has been recovered by police after being stolen from its St Ippolyts home in 2009. - Credit: Archant

A large bronze sculpture of a horse worth tens of thousands of pounds which was stolen from its St Ippolyts owners seven years ago has been recovered – thanks to an eagle-eyed TV viewer and police in North Herts.

‘Curved Neck Grace’ was created by English sculptor John W Mills in 1983, earning him the Otto Beit medal for that year.

Only six were commissioned – three of which are believed to have been sold to collectors in America – with one bought in 1983 and display in the owner’s garden in St Ippolyts.

The statue remained there for 26 years, before being stolen in September 2009. The theft was reported to police at the time, but despite an investigation the sculpture was never recovered.

In November, an acquaintance of the late owner of the statue was watching BBC News programme ‘Inside Out – East’ which was reporting from a site in Dunstable when she spotted what she believed to be the sculpture in the background. She then called police and the investigation was passed to North Herts’ Operation Scorpion team.

The Scorpion team made enquiries towards the end of November, located the site and liaised with sculptor John W Mills – who helped to identify that the statue was the stolen Curved Neck Grace.

The man who had the statue displayed at the site in Dunstable had bought it from at an antique fair in Shepherd’s Bush around seven years ago. He was shocked to discover it had been stolen, but understood it needed to be returned.

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When the sculpture was not found around the time of the original theft, the rightful owner was compensated by their insurance company. As a result, now that the statue has been recovered it remains in the possession of the insurance company.

John W Mills, whose sculptures also include the ‘Monument to the Women of World II’ in Whitehall and the ‘National Firefighters Memorial’ outside St Paul’s Cathedral, said: “I was very pleased to see this sculpture again intact and see that it had obviously been cared for and hope it will find another good home – I just wish the owner could have enjoyed it for a few more years.

“I enjoyed my afternoon spent with the police team. I think we all learned a great deal from the experience.”

Sgt Jon Vine, who leads North Herts’ Operation Scorpion Team, said: “This was such an interesting case to take on. As Operation Scorpion officers we are used to tackling acquisitive crime but directly targeting burglars, robbers and those involved in drug related crime, so it was quite a different one to deal with. We are really pleased to have been able to assist in the recovery of this beautiful, prestigious statue.

“It is such a shame that the statue was stolen from its owners in 2009 and could not be recovered at the time. It is just by chance that someone happened to spot it while watching television.

“As soon as we received the report, we quickly began to make enquiries and were delighted to confirm that it was the stolen Curved Neck Grace when we visited the site.

“We hope that the statue will now go to a good home and will be displayed in a safe environment.”