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Marilyn Monroe painting stolen from Bluewater's The Whitewall Gallery still missing

A painting of the lips of one of the world's most beautiful women is still missing - despite four fraudsters being prosecuted.

Artist Craig Alan's portrait of Marilyn Monroe was taken from Bluewater's The Whitewall Gallery as part of an £18,000 scam.

Marilyn Monroe Submitted: Brian White
Marilyn Monroe Submitted: Brian White

Three of the team admitted their part in the September 2019 rip off and a fourth was convicted after a trial.

But the painting - which is worth £5,950 - is still missing, a judge at Maidstone Crown Court has heard.

Now the fourth man, "pastoral" teacher Jeremy Atta-Owusu has avoided an immediate jail sentence - after saying he could retrieve the artwork..

But the judge told the 27-year-old from Islington that his offer was "hollow, late and somewhat limited" and ordered him to pay £6,000 compensation to the gallery.

The Judge, Recorder David Vince, was told that despite pleading not guilty to four of the fraud charges he was not going to jail.

Instead he received a two-year sentence suspended for 18 months and was ordered to pay the gallery the money within six months.

The judge added: "I am not very impressed with your explanation as to why the painting has not been returned."

Atta-Owusu, who has a previous conviction in 2015 for a fraud in Norway involving a £30,000 watch, was convicted of four fraud charges, including an attempted fraud involving currency at Gatwick Airport.

He was also ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work and is now subject to a three month electronically-tagged curfew.

The court heard last September how the gang tricked the assistant by pretending to pay with a credit card before diverting the bill to another innocent account.

Then, while the painting was being packed, the trio used the card machine to claim refunds.

Judge Charles Gratwicke stopped the prosecution from revealing in open court precise details of how they carried out the brazen frauds.

Thieves Kouassi Bognini, 26, of Turners Court, St Ann's Road, North London; Ede Obhiagbon, 26, of Oldfield Place, Dartford; and Gregory Bomboko, 25, of Valkyrie Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, all pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiring to defraud the gallery.

The judge told them: "You took this property and simply waltzed out without caring... but you are nothing more than common thieves and should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself."

But they avoided going straight to prison after Maidstone Crown Court heard how two of the conmen have either repaid or offered to repay most of the money.

Prosecutor Andrew Evans told how the men went into the gallery in Bluewater and chose Craig Alan's Marilyn Monroe's Lips artwork for £5,950 and another called Penguin for £495 and paid with credit cards.

The three received 16-month jail sentences suspended for two years. Obhiagbon was also ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work for the community.

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