Burglar Who Stole Stuffed Animals Is Sentenced

Taxidermy worth over £100,000 was taken from Wandsworth warehouse

A burglar who stole stuffed animals worth thousands of pounds from a warehouse in Wandsworth has been given a suspended sentence and ordered to do community service.

Jason Robert Hopwood, 47, of Romford in Essex was sentenced to a 21 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, at Kingston Crown Court yesterday (4 April). He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.

The items stolen included stuffed lions, zebra and a chimpanzee in a top hat. Mr Hopwood had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to burglary and fraudulent use of a registration plate.

The court heard how on 1 March 2016, at around 7.30pm, a burglary took place at a warehouse at the Wimbledon Stadium Business Centre in Tooting. The thieves arrived in a van and used angle grinders to force their way into the premises. They then made off with antiques and 18 stuffed animals. The value of the items stolen was around £100,000.

Following a nationwide press appeal, an key anonymous call was made to Crimestoppers and on 22 March 2016 Essex Police - acting on the anonymous information - found the abandoned van in the Stapleford Abbots area in Essex

It was noted that the van had sticky patches on the plates where false plates were believed to have been attached and the van contained all the stolen animals. Jason Hopgood was identified as the owner of the van.

He was questioned and stated that he had sold the van to someone and knew nothing of any burglary. However in the van the police had found a parking ticket issued on the day of the burglary. It was issued outside Hopwood's home address to the fake number plate.

It was also established by phone and Automatic Number Plate Reader analysis that Hopwood had driven the van down to the scene of the burglary the day before the crime. He had then driven the van to the scene again on the day of the burglary, this time using the fake plates.

Hopwood was arrested on 29 September 2016 and admitted his part in the burglary.

DC Stuart Goss, from Wandsworth CID, said, "This was a complex and challenging case and I was helped by colleagues across the MPS and Essex Police. I would also like to thank the media, as I am sure reporting of our appeal forced the criminals to abandon the stolen goods.

"This was not a random crime, this was a criminal enterprise and Hopwood was well equipped and well prepared. I am very proud to have been able to reunite the victim with these valuable animals and bring Hopwood before the courts.

"Cataloguing and exhibiting the stolen items was a truly unique and memorable experience, and this is certainly an investigation which will stay with me for years to come."

The taxidermy company concerned are now lawfully in possession of the items and fully licensed.

April 5, 2017