Pictured: Masked man hunted by police after rosary beads that Mary Queen of Scots held as she was beheaded 433 years ago were stolen in Arundel Castle £1million raid
Detectives have asked for help identifying a man who was captured on CCTV footage after a break-in at Arundel Castle which saw priceless exhibits stolen.
The appeal to trace the man comes after the raid on the West Sussex castle last May, which led to several historic items worth more than £1 million being stolen from the building.
The stolen items include Mary Queen of Scots Rosary Beads, gold batons, and seven gold coronation cups dating back to the 1700s.
Sussex Police officers want to speak to a man who was captured on CCTV at the Clacket Lane motorway services on the M25 in Kent.
He was described as white, aged in his 30s or 40s, with dark coloured hair and a high hairline.
He was wearing a dark coloured tracksuit top and bottoms.
A reward has been offered to anyone that can return the stolen items undamaged.
Police have released images of a man they would like to speak to about a break-in at Arundel Castle in May 2021
Treasures worth more than £1milion were stolen from Arundel Castle, West Sussex, including gold rosary beads Mary Queen of Scots carried to her execution in 1587 (pictured with her Book of Hours)
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: ‘A man aged 45 years, has already been arrested on suspicion of the burglary after he was detained at an address in Eckington, Worcestershire, by Sussex Police officers in a joint operation with Gloucestershire Constabulary, West Mercia Police and Thames Valley Police.
‘He is currently released under investigation.’
Detective Inspector Alan Pack of Sussex Police said: ‘Our investigation into the Arundel Castle burglary remains live and we are keen to identify and trace this man.
‘If you can help identify him or if you have any other information about this burglary, please contact us either online or by calling Sussex 101, quoting Operation Deuce.
‘We also remind people that the insurers have offered a substantial reward should any of the property be recovered intact.’
Experts previously said it was likely a curator – possibly from overseas – commissioned the smash and grab on the historic West Sussex castle, which took place at 10.30pm on Friday, May 21.
Police attended the castle within minutes of the alarms being tripped and shortly after discovered an abandoned 4×4 vehicle on fire nearby in Barlavington – which forensic teams examined to establish if it was part of the robbery.
The items stolen from Arundel Castle
- Mary Queen of Scots Rosary Beads;
- Seven gold / silver-gilt coronation cups (George II, George III, George IV, William IV, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II);
- Gold Earl Marshal’s baton;
- Gold and enamel baton;
- Other miscellaneous items including 10 silver-gilt Apostle Spoons, a silver-gilt casket with hunting and fishing scenes, and a silver-gilt mug.
Thieves took ‘many’ precious items after smashing their way into display cabinets, most notably the rosary beads Queen Mary carried to her death in 1587 when she was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle for her complicity in a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said the rosary is of little value as metal. The force said: ‘As a piece of the Howard family history and the nation’s heritage it is irreplaceable.’
While Sussex Police said they could not comment further for ‘operational reasons’ experts said they believe the items will end up in an illegal private collection.
On King Francis II’s death in 1560, Mary left France, where she had spent much of her life until that point, and returned to Scotland.
In 1565 she married her half-cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, and in June 1566 they had a son, James.
She eventually fled to England in 1568, where she became a political pawn in the hands of Queen Elizabeth I and was imprisoned for 19 years in various castles in England.
Mary was found to be plotting against Elizabeth I when letters written in code, from her to others, were discovered and she was deemed guilty of treason.
The execution of Mary Queen of Scots 8 February, 1587. She is seen holding the rosary beads as she was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle for a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I
A Sussex Police spokesman said the rosary is of little value as metal, but of huge significance
Alarms at the castle were tripped at 10.30pm on May 21 and a display case (pictured above) was smashed so the thieves could get their hands on the treasures inside
Experts said it was likely a curator – possibly from overseas – commissioned the smash and grab on the historic Arundel Castle (pictured), which took place at 10.30pm on Friday, May 21
She was taken to Fotheringhay Castle and executed in 1587.
A spokesman for Arundel Castle Trustees said: ‘The stolen items have significant monetary value, but as unique artefacts of the Duke of Norfolk’s collection have immeasurably greater and priceless historical importance.
‘We therefore urge anyone with information to come forward to the police to assist them in returning these treasures back where they belong.’
An ill-fated monarch: The life and times of Mary Queen of Scots up until her execution in 1587
Born on December 8, 1542, at Linlithgow Palace, Mary became Queen of Scots when she was just six days old.
As Hendy VII of England’s great-granddaughter she was next in line to the English throne, after Henry VIII’s children.
She was due to marry Henry VIII’s son, the future Edward VI, after Scottish nobility decided to make peace with England. But it was opposed by the Catholics and she was taken to Stirling Castle.
Scotland returned to its traditional ally, France, and Mary later married the French King Henry II’s heir, Dauphin Francis, on April 24, 1558.
The University of Dundee created a computer generated image (pictured) of the face of Mary Queen of Scots as she would have looked during the time of her reign
He succeeded to his father’s throne in 1559, making Mary Queen of France as well as Scotland. However, King Francis II’s reign was brief and he died in 1560 as a result of an ear infection.
The following year Mary decided to return to Scotland, which was now a Protestant country, after religious reforms led by John Knox.
She was a Roman Catholic and was assured by her half-brother Lord James Stewart that she would be allowed to worship as she wished when she returned in August 1561.
At first she ruled successfully and was advised by James and William Maitland of Lethington. But her marriage in 1565 to her second cousin Henry, Lord Darnley (who was the great-grandson of Henry VII), triggered a series of tragic events.
Darnley, who was spoilt and petulant, had became the focus of her enemies and their relationship became difficult. The birth of their son, James, did little to improve it and when Darnley was murdered in 1567, people began to suspect she was involved.
Her marriage three months later to the Earl of Bothwell – who was generally believed to be the murderer – brought her ruin with Protestant Lords rising against her in a battle at Carberry Hill, near Edinburgh, on June 15, 1567.
She later surrendered and was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle, Kinross-shire, and forced to abdicate in favour of her son. Bothwell had fled but was arrested and held prisoner until his death.
Mary escaped from Lochleven in 1568 and after another failed battle went to England where she hoped Queen Elizabeth I would support her cause, but she was kept in captivity in the country for 19 years.
A number of Roman Catholic plots against Queen Elizabeth led her ministers to demand Mary’s execution.
She was executed at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on Feburary 8, 1587, aged 44.
Mary Queen of Scots was buried in Peterborough Cathedral but in 1612 her son James VI had her body exhumed and placed in the vault of King Henry VII’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey.