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Cider magnate offers £50,000 reward for art

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: February 12, 2010

Esmond Bulmer outside his home

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A cider magnate is offering a £50,000 reward for the safe return of artwork stolen in a dramatic raid on his Somerset home last year.
Esmond Bulmer, of the famous Bulmer cider dynasty, lost £2 million worth of fine art when masked intruders forced their way into his home in Bruton, near Shepton Mallet.

The 74-year-old is desperate for the return of the valuable artwork, which includes Endymion by George Frederic Watts – which alone could be worth up to £1m – and Apple Blossom by George Clausen.

During the raid on The Pavilion in The Redlynch Estate, the burglars tied up house-sitter Deborah Barnjum with an electrical cord, before stealing a total of 16 paintings.

Ms Barnjum, 47, was not found until 4pm the following day, March 21. She was bruised and shaken but otherwise uninjured.

Mr Bulmer, a former Tory MP, and his wife Susan were on holiday in Barbados at the time.

Other stolen pieces include An Italian Peasant Boy by Richard Buckner, A grey pony in a stormy landscape by James Ward and John Anthony Park’s St Ives.

Richard Ellis, director of the Art Management Group and a former detective at Scotland Yard, said: “These paintings are not saleable on the open market.
“They have all been placed on the Art Loss register and would be very difficult to shift through dealers.
“It is conceivable they could have been used as a commodity to exchange for drugs or as collateral for other criminal operations.

“Clausen was a prominent British artist and a member of the academy. Apple Blossom is an oil on canvas which is signed and dated 1899 on the reverse. The most high value painting is the Watts oil on canvas. I would estimate this is worth £800,000 to £1m.”

A further £1m of jewellery was taken in the raid. The gang used the Bulmer’s Mercedes 220 car as a getaway vehicle.

Speaking at the time of the burglary, Mr Bulmer said: “Some of the items were of high monetary value but others were of sentimental value to me as they were the first pieces I bought.

“The most important thing is to catch these men for what they did to Deborah. These people are animals.”

The £50,000 reward is being offered for the arrest and conviction of the offenders and recovery of the undamaged fine art.

Detective Inspector Jim Bigger of the Somerset East Public Protection Unit said: “This is a substantial reward, however I do not see this a simple recovery exercise for the paintings, I am focused on the facts that the paintings may lead me to the persons responsible for committing this extremely violent crime, a crime which resulted in my victim being tied up for 18 hours. That is my objective.”

Anyone with any information on the incident or the whereabouts of the paintings is asked to contact police on 0845 456 7000 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via www.crimestoppers-org.uk.

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