Silent raider stole £1m porcelain collection from aristocrat's mansion
An ice-cool thief stole dozens of pieces of delicate porcelain, worth more than £1 million, in a late-night raid on a stately home.
He managed to clear out two display cabinets and escape down a ladder without disturbing the owner, his son or members of staff sleeping in the 15th century house.
The silent theft was not discovered until a burglar alarm malfunctioned the next day and staff went to check the valuables.
They found the only two cabinets not covered by CCTV were empty.
The daring raid happened at Firle Place, near Lewes, East Sussex, on Sunday night.
Its owner Lord Gage, 75, said the thief had used a ladder and glass cutters to enter the house.
He added: 'He was a very cool burglar indeed, obviously a total professional.
'The fact that there was a blind spot in our CCTV system is something I was completely unaware of - but obviously he wasn't.
'Just how he succeeded in getting back down the ladder with two cabinets worth of valuable porcelain I'll never know.'
Lord Gage, a former Army officer whose 34-yearold son was also in the house, said: 'There were a number of people here but nobody noticed a thing. It's a complete mystery.'
The 30-piece haul included two rare identical French Sevres vases, crafted in 1763 in the royal factory founded by Louis XV and worth £400,000 each and another vase made in 1761 and worth £150,000.
Stolen: One of two identical twin vases stolen during the raid and an extremely rare Hollandaise Nouveau figurine which was also taken
A Hollandaise Nouveau figurine, valued at around £150,000, is also missing. Police said they believed they were stolen to order. The burglar ignored Old Masters paintings by Raphael and Anthony van Dyck.
The manor house, which is open to the public, was built in the late 1400s by Lord Gage's ancestor, Sir John Gage, who was a Vice-Chamberlain to Henry VIII. Its external cladding is made of Caen stone to resemble a classic French chateau.
Burglars stole rare antiques worth £1million from Firle Place, a stately home near Lewes in East Sussex
A later John Gage was created Baronet of Firle Place in the County of Sussex in 1622. Eight baronets followed before George I elevated Thomas Gage to the rank of Viscount in 1720.
His son, General Sir Thomas Gage, was commander-in-chief of British forces at the beginning of the American War of Independence.
The house has often been used as a film set, featuring in Return of the Soldier, starring Julie Christie, in 1981 and a BBC TV Jonathan Creek Christmas special.