Recovery of artwork stolen from world heritage site

26 September, 2019

Hugh Mercer QC and Peter Webster, instructed by Exeme Avocats, Bordeaux, represented the City of Bordeaux in the successful recovery from London of four 14th and 15th century altar panels stolen ‎in the 1980s. The Nottinghamshire alabaster panels had probably originally arrived in Bordeaux in the Middle Ages as payment for a shipment of wine.

The renowned theft of the panels from the basilica of St Michel in Bordeaux, a UNESCO world heritage site, was discovered in the 1990s.  Though three of the missing pieces were quickly recovered, four proved harder to track down. An international investigation eventually located them in London, where they had been purchased after various intermediate sales in the USA. An agreement regarding their return was concluded late last year thereby avoiding litigation and a formal ceremony marking the return of the panels was held on 21 September in Bordeaux, under the aegis of the French Minister of Culture and presided over by the Mayor of Bordeaux. The matter is reported in The Times (25 September: and in the French press: or