CCTV shows moment thief used a sledgehammer to break in to a Dutch museum before fleeing with a £2.6million Van Gogh painting under his arm
- The burglar broke into the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam on March 30
- CCTV footage aired by Dutch TV showed him breaking in with a sledgehammer
- The thief made off with Van Gogh’s 1884 painting of a spring garden in Holland
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
This security footage shows the moment an art thief smashed his way into a Dutch museum to steal a Vincent van Gogh painting.
Armed with a sledgehammer, the burglar broke through reinforced glass doors at the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam before fleeing with the artwork tucked under his arm.
The theft in the early hours of March 30 dealt a fresh blow to the gallery which had already been forced to shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Dutch TV show has now aired the surveillance footage in the hope of catching the crook, who has not been identified.
The painting by the Dutch master, entitled The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884, remains missing.
This security footage from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam shows the moment a burglar broke in through the gift shop on a mission to steal a Van Gogh painting
The Parsonage Garden At Neunen In Spring 1884, by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, was stolen from a Dutch museum which is closed because of the coronavirus pandemic
The security footage shows the thief entering the museum through the gift shop after smashing his way through the glass doors.
He then breaks another door with his sledgehammer, advancing further into the gallery and leaving more shattered glass behind him.
Police have withheld some footage to protect their investigation, but the thief is later seen making his escape from the museum with the painting under his right arm.
The museum’s managing director Evert van Os defended the Singer Laren’s security, which he said had been approved by an insurance firm.
‘The burglar broke through a number of doors and several layers of security that had been approved by security experts,’ Van Os said.
‘The footage released does not therefore allow any conclusions to be drawn as to the quality of security at Singer Laren.’
Police said today that members of the public had come forward with 56 new tips since the footage was broadcast on Dutch TV.
‘It looks like they very deliberately targeted this one Van Gogh painting,’ police spokeswoman, Maren Wonder, told the Opsporing Verzocht show last night.
The thief is seen on this footage broadcast by Dutch TV last night which police say has already led to dozens of new tips from the public
The crook was seen escaping the museum the way he had entered it, carrying his sledgehammer under one arm and the painting under the other
Detectives say it is unclear whether the thief had an accomplice and are searching for a white van which is seen in the footage driving past the museum.
The 10-by-22-inch oil-on-paper painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum in the city of Groningen.
Vincent van Gogh, pictured in a self-portrait, was born 167 years exactly before the theft in March 1853
Wonder said investigators want to hear from any potential witnesses who saw the thief arrive outside the museum on a motorcycle.
She also wants museum visitors to share any photos or video they took in the museum in the days before it closed down, to see if anyone was planning the theft.
‘People can help if they now realise that another visitor was behaving suspiciously,’ she said.
‘It would be very helpful if visitors to the museum have photos or video recordings with other people in them.’
Van Os said the museum would draw lessons from the theft, but added: ‘At the moment, however, the only thing that matters is that the footage should yield useful tips and that the painting should be returned undamaged to the Groninger Museum as soon as possible.’
The museum was shut down on March 12 because of the pandemic, along with the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Museum director Jan Rudolph de Lorm told Dutch media at the time that he was ‘shocked and incredibly p****d off’ by the theft.
‘This is extremely difficult, especially in these times,’ he said.
‘This splendid and moving artwork by one of our great artists has been stolen, taken from the community.’
The Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam (pictured on the day of the theft) said the Vincent van Gogh painting had been stolen in an overnight raid
The director of the Groninger Museum said the burglary was ‘the theft of a work that belongs to all of us’.
The 1884 painting shows a rectory garden in the town of Nuenen, where van Gogh was living at the time.
It shows a person standing in a garden surrounded by trees, with a church building in the background.
The artwork dates to a period when Van Gogh was living with his parents at the rectory after his father was appointed pastor of the rural parish.
‘The atmosphere in the van Gogh home was often strained; Vincent was quick to take offence at his father’s remarks,’ is how the Van Gogh Museum describes the period.
Dutch media estimated at the time of the theft that the value of the work could be around £2.6million.
Some van Gogh paintings have sold for far more, including his Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers which changed hands for nearly £25million at 1987 prices – equivalent to roughly £60million today.
People look at the glass door which burglars forced their way through in the early hours of March 30, stealing the van Gogh artwork from the 1880s
The record amount for a van Gogh painting is the $82.5million which a Japanese bidder paid for the Portrait of Dr Gachet in 1990, around $150million today.
Van Gogh was born exactly 167 years before the theft, in March 1853. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1890.
The museum’s 3,000 works also include works by Dutch abstract master Piet Mondrian and Dutch-Indonesian painter Jan Toorop, as well as a casting of ‘The Thinker’ by Auguste Rodin.
Before the closure, the museum was hosting an exhibition titled ‘Mirror of the Soul’ with works by a range of artists.
Several museums announced their closure after the Dutch government banned gatherings of more than 100 people on March 12.
The Anne Frank House, another major tourist attraction in Amsterdam, has also been closed down.
The city’s red-light district has also been shut, but the famous ‘coffee shops’ that sell cannabis were allowed to remain open for takeaways after an initial outbreak of panic-buying.
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