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A huge bronze Chinese dragon statue weighing more than a tonne was stolen and sold to a scrap yard in south west London, police said.

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Officers seized the £3,500 ornament which was stolen from a garden in Teddington, where it was mounted in concrete.

A bronze status of Jesus Christ was also found by officers during a string of raids on Monday and Tuesday.

Forty plaques stolen from a crematorium in Beckenham were also recovered. Each one is worth between £40 and £50.

Two metal cutting machines were also found at the business as police executed a search warrant.

The owner of the yard and an employee have been charged in connection with the raid.

Acting Inspector James Coomber, the operation co-ordinator, said: “This represents a significant find in our ongoing efforts to target metal theft.

“The majority of scrap metal dealers who are legitimate support our targeting of those acting outside of the law.

Those contributing to the thriving illegal trade can expect regular operations to search, detect and arrest those profiting from it.”

Metal theft costs the UK £700 million a year. Four police operations over the past eight months saw 60 arrests made.

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