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PA
UK News

Man found guilty of Cathedral painting-angel swap

Vasilijs Apilats, 61, ripped the icon, The Raising Of Lazarus, from its easel on the altar in the Chapel of St Anselm and left a Christmas decoration in its place.

The painting has a value of £2,000.

Apilats stole the painting in order to add it to a collection of icons he had in his home.

Recorder Eric Lamb told Chester Crown Court that his actions were "akin to the instincts of a magpie".

PA

Vasilijs Apilats's icon collection - only the Chester Cathedral icon was recognised as stolen

Recorder Lamb added: "Having seen photos of your home, I have formed the view that you committed this crime out of a simple desire to acquire the icon, rather than having any specific monetary gain in mind."

Apilates denied stealing the 150-year-old icon at his trial, telling the court someone at the cathedral had sold it to him for £135.

He said the unidentified man told him to put the icon into a bin liner and exit through the back door and over a metal fence.

Apilats denied stealing the icon, dating from around 1870, and during a trial last year he professed his Christian faith and claimed he was offered it for sale for £135 by an unidentified man at the cathedral.

Police were able to identify Apilats through DNA left at the scene.

Apilats had previous convictions for a public order offence and harassing his local MP, Edward Timpson, the court heard.

Peter Moss, mitigating, said Apilats suffered a mental disorder. He claimed it was from ill-treatment suffered at the hands of the Russian mafia.

The defendant was also ordered to pay a £100 victim surcharge.

Sergeant Neil Doleman, of Cheshire Constabulary, said: "Apilats is a man who appears to be obsessed with religious artefacts.

"He selfishly took an icon, which was not only of significant value but was also of huge importance to Chester Cathedral and the public who used it as an aid to pray.

Chester Cathedral Constable, Chris Jones, said: "We are delighted to be able to re-instate the stolen 18th century icon here at the cathedral.

"It has now been returned to its rightful place in St Anselm's Chapel, a place used for prayer and refection.

"We were very saddened when the icon was taken and thought it had gone forever so to see it returned is very special."

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