Police search of drug dealer's den led to discovery of stolen painting
A £1 million painting stolen five years ago was discovered in a drug dealer's den alongside his lucrative stash of cocaine and ecstasy, police said.
The work, by Sir Stanley Spencer and titled Cookham from Englefield, was taken from the Stanley Spencer Gallery, Berkshire, in 2012.
Its whereabouts remained a mystery until police arrested Harry Fisher, 28, on June 15, after finding a kilogram of cocaine and £30,000 in cash in his Mercedes.
On searching Fisher's flat in Kingston-upon-Thames, west London, officers found the artwork next to three kilograms of cocaine and 15,000 ecstasy tablets.
A further raid on his family home in Fulham found more Class A drugs, making a total street value of £450,000, and £40,000 in cash.
The Metropolitan Police said the defendant, of Seven Kings Way, Kingston, was jailed for eight years and eight months at Kingston Crown Court on Friday, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and handling stolen goods.
Also sentenced was his passenger at the time of the arrest, 32-year-old Zak Lal, of Columbine Road, Rochester, Kent, who admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, acquiring criminal property and possession of an offensive weapon.
He was jailed for five years and eight months at the same hearing, police said. The painting has now been returned to the Stanley Spencer Gallery.
A spokesman said: "The Stanley Spencer Gallery volunteers are immensely grateful to the various police sections who have contributed to the recovery of this remarkable painting which was stolen from us more than five years ago."
Described by the gallery as one of "our greatest British artists", Sir Stanley often used the Berkshire village of Cookham as inspiration for his work during a 45-year career. He died in 1959.
Detective Inspector Andy Whitewood, of the Met's organised crime command, said: "These two men were caught in possession of a considerable amount of Class A drugs as the result of a proactive investigation targeting high end, organised drug supply.
"A search of Fisher's address revealed a stolen £1m painting, this demonstrates the link between drugs trafficking and serious, acquisitive crime.
"I am pleased to say that the painting has now been returned to the art gallery from where it was stolen.
"The sentences handed to these defendants should act as a deterrent to anyone else involved in the supply of illegal drugs."