NewsCrime Desk

Travellers' rhino clan at heart of massive conspiracy

Crime DeskBy Eamon Dillon
Richard Kerry O'Brien
Richard Kerry O'Brien

THE family of traveller trader Richard 'Kerry' O’Brien Snr has been described as having been "at the heart" of a massive conspiracy to steal priceless museum exhibits and rhino horns.

This week, two of O’Brien’s sons, his brother and a nephew were among the men jailed for the conspiracy to steal €71million worth of museum artifacts, including rhino horns.

His sons, John and Richard ‘Kerry’ O’Brien Jnr, lead members of ‘The Dead Zoo Gang’, were sentenced to six-and-a-half and five-and-a-half years each.

Also jailed were Kerry senior’s brother John ‘Cash’ O’Brien, his nephew Richard Sheridan, and his brother-in-law Danny ‘Turkey’ O’Brien.

The antique dealer’s mansion in Rathkeale had been raided by the Criminal Assets Bureau as U.K. police investigated the gang.

Trial judge Murray Creed remarked that “there were phone calls to the family home in Rathkeale – it was the home of Richard O’Brien Snr.”

BANGED UP: John 'Kerry' O'Brien, Richard 'Kerry' O'Brien, Michael Hegarty and Daniel 'Turkey' O'Brien

The probe came after the gang’s most successful raid, in which €18m worth of jade artefacts were stolen from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

None of the precious items, which are estimated to be worth millions, have been recovered.

O’Brien Snr had claimed that he has been the victim of discrimination and that his son had been set up by law enforcement.

Richard Jnr served time in the U.S. after he and Michael Hegarty were arrested in a sting by special agents. The two were sentenced to six months in jail in April, 2011.

Hegarty was also jailed again this week for his part in the U.K. conspiracy, this time getting a six-and-a-half year sentence.

Kerry Snr was among 19 people originally arrested by police under Operation Griffin, launched to solve the museum thefts. He was released without charge, while 14 others were convicted.