by senior Crime Correspondent James Finch
Friday, 21 December, 2001
POLICE in the UK continue to admit that they are still nowhere nearer finding the 180-room Knoxborough Hall stolen overnight by thieves.
The crime, said by police to have been carried out by two small time hoodlums from Clapham Common, stunned the world with the overnight theft of the English stately home just days before Christmas as its owner, Lord Knoxborough, slept undisturbed in the master bedroom.
Lord Knoxborough, a freelance lawyer, had recently clinched a deal to represent Judas Iscariot’s descendants in a court case involving the Gesthemane Ghost.
After the theft of his mansion, he awoke to find himself lying on the ground and covered by a blanket and no sign at all of his beloved Knoxborough Hall. All that remained was a dilapidated gardener's quarters and the Christmas tree with all its presents, which had been in the hall.
Superintendent Oliver Battery said the theft had been "very professional".
"Even the water, gas and electricity supply outlets had been neatly capped or disconnected," said Supt Battery.
On waking to the dreadful shock and loss, Lord Knoxborough walked seven miles to the nearest telephone to call police. By the time he'd returned to the site of his former home, the Christmas tree and presents had also been stolen."I was very sad about that. The presents were for my grandchildren," said a tearful Lord Knoxborough.
Knoxborough Hall has been in the ownership of the Knoxborough family since it was built in 1721. It became caught up in controversy in 1863 when it was discovered that Henry Knoxborough kept a harem of 27 wives in the estate, and again in 1994 when travelers took up residence in the large attics of the hall and refused to leave.
The theft is the latest in a string of house thefts across the UK, although it is by far the largest yet to date. Previously the largest successfully stolen house was a four bedroomed semi-detached, stolen in October from Airport View, Crawley, Sussex. Superintendent Battery said that the thieves had "overstepped their mark" with Knoxborough Hall.
"What they fail to realise is that we know who they are. They left their fingerprints all over the pot containing the Christmas tree, although it was itself stolen before we could get to the scene," said Supt Battery. He said the motive behind the theft of the tree was clearer than the motive behind the theft of Knoxborough Hall.
He admitted that despite the evidence, police had no idea where the 180-roomed Knoxborough Hall had gone or even where to begin looking for it. He also admitted that the police had no idea just how the theft had been carried out and refused to be more specific about the two small time Clapham Common hoodlums implicated in the crime by police.
"We don't want them to know exactly what we know about them, but we do know who they are," said Supt Battery.
Lord Knoxborough, who is single but has 27 grandchildren and was last known to be staying in the gardener's shed with his cat and tortoise, was said to have been 'devastated' by the theft.
None of the known 2,574 houses stolen over the last 24 months have so far been recovered.
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