Drugs Police Stumble Upon LS Lowry Masterpieces

Story behind the stolen LS Lowry masterpieces worth £1.7 million, accidentally discovered during an anti-drugs operation, is this week being aired in court

Prosecutor Gerald Baxter recounted how, during an anti-drugs surveillance operation in the Orrell Park and Bootle areas of Merseyside, the police followed Kevin Marlow, 29 to a flat in Arncliffe Road where Malcolm Shield, 41, lived with his lover Erin Edwards.

Officers stormed the property expecting to strike a blow against drugs trafficking, but instead scored points in the war against art theft! Upon entrance, Shield said to the police; ‘I know why you’re here – the paintings’, and pointed out a hiding place. There, they found Lowry artworks – including two of his masterpieces, The Viaduct, and Tanker Entering the Tyne – which had been stolen in May 2007 by four robbers during a violent raid on art dealer Ivan Aird’s home in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.

And it doesn’t stop there, as the following day officers discovered further artworks by Lowry and his fellow northern artist Arthur Delaney, as they searched inside a shipping container leased by Gerard Starkey, 50.

The works were shown to Ivan Aird and he helped identify them as the paintings stolen from him in May 2007. The total value of all items recovered after restoration and at full market value is £1,548,400.

During the raid, the officers also found a significant quantity of drugs which included 2kg of amphetamine with a street value of £9,300 to £18,600, and bags of white powder or paste weighing 7.3kg with a street value of £36,689 to £73,379.

Malcolm Shield, 41, of Arncliffe Road, Halewood, Kevin Marlow, 29, of Halby Road, Bootle, and Gerard Starkey, 50, of Southport Road, also Bootle are to be sentenced this week after pleading guilty to handling the stolen artworks.

But these were not the men responsible for the theft. In March 2009, Casey Miller was jailed indefinitely at Manchester Crown Court for his role as a ‘useful piece of muscle’, while the other three men who took part in the robbery are still at large.

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