Museum bird skin theft man ordered to pay money

01 August 2011

A student who stole 299 rare bird skins from the Natural History Museum at Tring to fund his studies has been ordered to pay £125,150 under the Proceeds of Crime Act. 

Edwin Rist, aged 22, from the USA, was sentenced in April for the burglary, which took place on 24 June 2009. He was previously given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and a supervision order for 12 months.

Following a hearing at St Albans Crown Court today he was also given a confiscation order to pay back £125,150, after also pleading guilty to money laundering offences.

This is the amount that it is estimated he later made by selling the bird skins, stolen from a private collections area in the Museum, on places like Ebay.

Detective Sergeant Joe Quinlivan, from Herts Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit, said, 'This is a very positive result for us and sends a strong message that making money through crime never pays.

'My team and I were determined that Rist should not benefit financially from his crime, which robbed this country of part of its heritage, and today’s result is testament to the hard work of the Economic Crime Unit.

'For anyone who is involved in or considering making money through crime – be warned. If caught, we will be seeking your ill-gotten gains through the courts from you through the Proceeds of Crime Act.'

Rist has £13,371.98 available to pay and has six months to pay it. If he does not pay this amount within six months, he will be required to serve his 12 month prison sentence.

If Rist should come into more money at a later date, the Economic Crime Unit will be seeking this money from him up to the total outstanding figure.

Appeal for return of outstanding birds

Anyone with information is asked to contact either the police on non-emergency number 0845 33 00 222 or the Museum on +44 (0)20 7942 5065.

Irreplaceable specimens

The stolen birds were a number of brightly-coloured tropical birds, including cotingas, quetzals and birds of paradise, some being endangered species, irreplaceable and, therefore, of special scientific concern. 

In total 191 intact birds have been recovered to date, but only 101 still retain their labels, which are critical scientifically. In addition, parts (feathers, etc.) from an estimated 31 further birds have also been recovered.

A national collection

The birds that were stolen form part of the nation’s natural history collection, assembled over the last 350 years. The 70 million specimens looked after by the Museum are a resource of international importance in the development of scientific knowledge. 

The ornithological collections are amongst the most heavily used and are consulted by researchers throughout the world, who either visit the

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