A multi-millionaire friend of Prince Charles has offered a ”substantial” reward after thieves stole a rare £150,000 Renaissance water fountain from his home – for scrap metal.
Wealthy Owen Inskip, 57, who is also a friend and housing advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, discovered the 17th Century Italian fountain was missing on Sunday morning.
Thieves forced the gates of his £2million estate in a night-time raid before making off with the 4m tall bronze fountain, which is one of only two in the world.
Chartered surveyor Owen, who is a fieldmaster for Prince Charles’s favourite hunt, The Beaufort, believes the artwork may now have been melted down for £100 of scrap metal.
Father-of-two Owen, who lives at The Old Rectory in Siston, Glos., is offering a ”large, worthwhile reward” for information leading to the return of his family heirloom.
He said: ”We believe the fountain was stolen some time on Saturday night because the break-in was discovered by my housekeeper on Sunday morning.
”The fountain wasn’t in situ, it was being stored in a locked barn, and there must have been at least two of them to lift it out in pieces.
”It’s a bit of a mystery how they knew it was there but the police think it may have been an opportunistic theft.
”What really worries me is that the fountain might get sold for scrap because it’s very valuable and has been in my family for 60 years.
”It’s of huge sentimental value to me and as far as we know it’s one of only two of it’s kind in the world.
”I’m willing to pay a large, worthwhile reward for information leading to it’s return.”
Owen, whose son Tom is best friends with Prince Harry, received a call from his housekeeper on Sunday morning informing him the fountain had been stolen.
It is believed thieves forced the electric gates of his property at some time after 8pm on Saturday before the fountain was taken from a locked barn and loaded onto a van.
The bronze fountain, which is 2m in diameter, is decorated with five ‘putti’, or cherubim, and topped with a dolphin being ridden by a larger cherubim.
The piece came into the Inskip family in 1950 when Owen’s parents bought a property in Hampshire.
Owen does not believe that the fountain was ‘stolen to order’ because the thieves did not manage to steal the heavy bronze lower bowl.
He said: ”We think that there must have only been two thieves because three men could easily have lifted the lower bowl.
”They stole some tools from the barn as well which makes it seem more like an opportunistic crime.”
Owen stood as the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Kingswood, Bristol, at the General Election in 2005 but was beaten by his Labour rival.
In 2007 he sold his nine-bedroom country home, Alderley Farm, near Wotton-under-Edge, Glos., for more than £7 million.
The multi-millionaire amassed his fortune through several businesses including managing around 30,000 council houses for local authorities.