Paintings valued at more than £200 million went up in smoke when an art thief’s mother burned them to destroy police evidence against her son.
The masterpieces were stolen from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam in a daring daylight robbery.
A gang of masked robbers rushed into the museum and stripped the walls of the paintings in a raid that lasted less than two minutes before making their getaway in October 2012.
Dutch detectives have been on the gang’s trail ever since – and have charged six Romanians with the theft.
The haul included:
- Harlequin Head – Picasso
- Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge, London – Claude Monet
- Reading Girl in White And Yellow – Henri Matisse
- Girl In Front Of An Open Window – Paul Gaugain
- Self-portrait – Meyer de Haan
- Woman With Eyes Closed – Lucian Freud
Art experts have decried the burning as a ‘crime against humanity’.
The ashes of what is believed to be the paintings were uncovered in a charred oven in an abandoned building in Romania.
Art and forensic experts are painstakingly piecing together the remains to try to identify if they are from the stolen pictures.
Experts are examining the canvas, pigments and varnishes to confirm their worst fears.
The mother of thief Radu Dogaru has confessed she burned the paintings following her son’s arrest in January.
She told police that the gang had given her the paintings for safe-keeping, but she was frightened when police arrested her son so buried them in a cemetery.
When she thought police were closing in on her, she dug them and hid them in an abandoned property.
Later, she stuffed them into a suitcase, put them in a stove and set fire to them along with a pile of logs and rubber shoes.
The gang goes on trial in Rotterdam next month.
The stolen paintings are not the only art masterpieces to be lost to the world.
Millions of pounds worth of paintings, sculptures and ceramics are lost presumed stolen. They are listed on the Art Loss register [LINK: http://www.artloss.com/en].
Other art worth millions was destroyed at the Momart warehouse fire in London, including works by Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst.
In the tragedy of the Twin Towers on 9/11, works by Alexander Calder and Ray Lichtenstein were among priceless items destroyed in the terror attack.