THREE men have been convicted for conspiring to steal historic York stone from Tatton Park, causing more than £30,000 of damage.

The trio were brought to justice following a complex two-year investigation involving historic experts.

Kieran Ogden, 36, of Stanhope Street, North Reddish, Christopher Kelly, 36, of Station Road, North Reddish, and Kevin Buckley, 35, of Blackbrook Road, Heaton Chapel, appeared at Chester Crown Court on Thursday, December 15, after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.

Buckley and Ogden were sentenced to two years suspended for 18 months, 100 hours of unpaid work and 60 days of rehabilitation work.

Kelly was handed the same sentenced with his rehabilitation work reduced to 40 days.

This result was the culmination of two years of work involving Macclesfield Local Policing Unit, the Roads & Crime Unit, the Rural Crime Team and others, with the support of Historic England.

The assistant park ranger for Tatton Park noticed that York coping stones had been taken from the walls to the right of the Rosthorne entry gate on Ashley Road on September 8, 2020.

More stone was taken on September 16 and 17.

An eagle-eyed off-duty officer on his way to work noticed a van driving slowly alongside one of the boundary walls of Tatton Park and called it in.

This started the ball rolling and the Rural Crime Team began an investigation.

PC Steve Kaminski attended and searched the area with the assistant park ranger, discovering a discarded packet of cigarettes which was seized and sent off for DNA analysis.

It came back as likely to belong to Buckley.

PC Lawrence Price put measures in place that meant the suspects could be intercepted.

On September 19, the suspects were stopped in a rental van leaving Cheshire with what was believed to be stolen stone from Tatton Park on-board.

The three men were arrested and the van was seized.

PC Price and the assistant park ranger assessed the stone and concluded it was from Tatton Park, but further proof was required.

PC Steve Kaminski worked alongside Mark Harrison, head of heritage crime strategy at Historic England, and forensic scientist Dr Rosie Everett, to formulate a plan to conclusively link the stone to the site.

Although police had utilised traditional methods of forensically linking the suspects to the location from items discarded by the suspects, a key part was utilising the forensic specialists to match the stone recovered from the van to the wall at Tatton.

Historic England part funded the specialist forensic work undertaken by Dr Rosie Everett.

This involved detailed examination of the soil, mortar and plant life associated with the wall and seized stonework which resulted in evidence that has assisted in the conviction of these three men.

Mark Harrison, head of heritage crime strategy at Historic England, said: “We are always looking for new and innovative ways to prevent and investigate crime in the historic environment.

“The use of forensic techniques such as soil and plant analysis to investigate crime is not new.

“However, this is the first time that such methods have been used in the investigation of the theft of heritage stone.”

The total cost to repair the wall, which is protected as a listed building, is estimated to be in excess of £31,000.

DC Kaminski added “It has been a fantastic learning experience for all the team as we sought advice from Historic England.

“Without their help and the work done by our colleagues on other teams we wouldn’t have got the outcome we have today.”

Sgt Rob Simpson said: “The knowledge and skill that Historic England can bring to a heritage crime investigation is priceless as is their dedication to protecting our scheduled monuments, listed buildings and more.

“As a team we have had cause to work with Historic England a number of times and continue to do so.

“Not only did they advise on the investigation strategy, but they also provided a detailed statement of impact, and made it possible for us to explore and carry out forensic methods normally only reserved for the most significant of crimes.”