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Three Men Jailed In Italian Art Thief Canal Death Case

The men have been handed custodial sentences for crimes relating to the death of Sebastiano Magnanini, whose body was found strapped to a shopping trolley in a canal in north London last year, but the cause of his death is unknown.

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Three man who pleaded guilty to offences related to the death of Sebastiano Magnanini have been jailed. The men, who are all of no fixed abode, were handed the sentences at Blackfriars crown court on Tuesday 8 March.

* Michael Walsh, 41, was sentenced to four years in jail for preventing the lawful burial of a body and conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

* Paul Williams, 61, was jailed for two years for preventing the lawful burial of body.

* Daniel Hastie, 22, was sentenced to eight months' in jail for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation. Hastie also received a four-month jail sentence for possessing an offensive weapon in an unrelated matter.

A passerby spotted Magnanini's partially-decomposed body floating in the Regent's canal at Islington, north London, near the entrance to a tunnel that runs under the Angel shopping district. He was identified by his fingerprints.

The cause of his death is unknown and police toxicology tests are ongoing.

The body was seen tied to a shopping trolley on 24 September, two days after Magnanini was last seen alive. Detectives have said he was found in the same clothes he was wearing when he finished his shift as a carpenter in south London.

Originally from Venice, Magnanini served an 18-month sentence in 1998 for the theft of an 18th-century painting, The Education of the Virgin, from the Church of Santa Maria della Fava in Venice. The painting was reported to be worth 2 billion lira, equivalent to around £1 million at the time.

Reppublica described the theft as "clumsy" and said Magnanini and his accomplice detached the painting with a utility knife, before it was recovered by police in a warehouse three months later.

Magnanini travelled across east Asia and came to London, frequently travelling back to Italy to see his family.

Magnanini's family said he had turned his life around and become a "free spirit", while police said his death was unconnected to his criminal past.

His brother, Matteo, told the Evening Standard in October last year: "The press are picturing him as a criminal purely based on his past. But my brother was a romantic free spirit that lived his life fully, looking for peace and happiness.

"As far as we all know, my brother was clean, hard working and not involved in any criminal activity."

Detective chief inspector Rebecca Reeves, who was leading the Met's investigation into Magnanini's death, told The Guardian in October that his death was not linked to his art theft or to organised crime.

"His life in Italy, before coming to London, will inevitably form part of the investigation, but at this early stage we are not looking at organised crime as a motive," she said. She added that the people who know how he died are living nearby.

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

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