stuffed animals stolen taxidermy robbery
The stuffed animals were among 18 stolen from a taxidermy warehouse Met Police

A man who admitted stealing more than £100,000 worth of antiques and stuffed animals, including a monkey wearing a top hat and tie, has been sentenced.

Jason Hopwood, 47, from Romford, Essex, was given a 21-month jail term suspended for two years after breaking into a warehouse at the Wimbledon Stadium Business Centre, south-west London, and making off with the unusual haul. He was also given 200 hours community service at Kingston Crown Court on Tuesday 4 April.

Hopwood was part of a gang who used angle grinders to force their way into the warehouse in what police said was not a "random crime".

A nationwide appeal was launched to help recover the stuffed animals, which also included a lion, flamingo, alligator and a penguin. Hopwood was soon identified as the owner of the van used in the burglary. The vehicle was also found to have fake licence plates.

Hopwood was arrested on 29 September 2016 and admitted his part in the burglary and fraudulent use of a registration plate.

DC Stuart Goss, from Wandsworth CID, said: "This was a complex and challenging case and I was helped by colleagues across the MPS and Essex Police. I would also like to thank the media, as I am sure reporting of our appeal forced the criminals to abandon the stolen goods.

"This was not a random crime, this was a criminal enterprise and Hopwood was well equipped and well prepared. I am very proud to have been able to reunite the victim with these valuable animals and bring Hopwood before the courts.

"Cataloguing and exhibiting the stolen items was a truly unique and memorable experience, and this is certainly an investigation which will stay with me for years to come."

stuffed animals
Jason Hopwood admitted being part a gang that stole 18 stuffed animals Met Police