Antiques dealer jailed over rhino horns was TV show regular

An ANTIQUES dealer from Inglewhite jailed for attempting to smuggle rhino horns worth £120,000 abroad was a regular on TV show Dickinson’s Real Deal.

Monday, 18th October 2010, 3:17 pm

Donald Allison, 62, appeared as an expert on the hit series and knew the programme’s star David Dickinson.

Allison, from a dynasty of Preston antiques sellers, was an international fine arts dealer who had rubbed shoulders with Elizabeth Hurley and Sophia Loren.

Allison was this week starting a 12-month jail term after being caught trying to smuggle the horns in a false Vienna sculpture of a bird as he tried to board a plane from Manchester airport to China, where he had a base.

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The horns belonged to a 41-year-old white rhino called Simba, which died of natural causes in 2009 at Colchester Zoo.

It is believed they would have been sold on the Chinese market as a cancer cure.

Colleagues of Allison – who was renowned all over the world – spoke of their shock at his fall from grace.

He ran Donald Allison Antiques on New Hall Lane, Preston, but it closed several months ago after it is believed he was declared bankrupt.

Allan Blackburn, 63, the owner of GB Antiques in Lancaster, said: “This is not the sort of thing you expect a man of Donald Allison’s standing to do. “I’m surprised that this has happened. Donald is from a very important family of antiques dealers in Preston.

“I think he was at Horrockses Mill and he used to be in the old church on Garstang Road, with brother Paul.

“He has been on the Real Deal, he was one of the experts on it.

“He is definitely one of the most important experts in Preston and his father was before him.

“He is good at his job and he was a very good antiques expert.

“At one time he handled some of the best goods that sold in Preston.

“As antiques dealers we have always got to be careful what we are dealing with, especially when it is things relating to ivory and stuffed animals.”

The Essex Police Wildlife Crime Unit found that the rhino’s head was stolen when Simba’s body was sent to an abattoir for disposal.

Under strict international law – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – the rhino should have been incinerated. Instead, Simba’s head, with horns attached, was removed by a member of the abattoir staff and sold for £400.

But the horns were not sold directly from the abattoir to Allison. It is understood they passed through at least one third party first.

Police are still investigating the events leading up to the theft but the identity of third parties involved are not known.

Allison attempted to board a flight on June 30, 2009, but he was met by UK Border Agency officials, who had been tipped off.

Colin Brown, the UK Border Agency’s Assistant Director at Manchester Airport, said: “The exploitation of endangered species for profit is a criminal trade.

“Had this plot been successful it would have fed demand for rare and exotic animals on the illegal world market and led to the further attempts at unscrupulous exploitation of endangered animals.”

Anthony Tropeano, zoological director of Colchester Zoo, said: “We are completely sickened by this and it is the last thing we thought could happen.

“Simba had been at Colchester Zoo for more than 30 years and was greatly loved by staff and visitors alike.

“We are totally disgusted by this horrendous crime.

“We can only take comfort in the fact that the UK Border Agency managed to prevent Simba’s horns actually being used.”