November 13, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Theft: Messenger bags may have allowed thieves to flee on foot or by bike

Painting by Gauguin stolen from Kunsthal Rotterdam

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

Here’s a link to an article by Robbert Blokland and Jolande van der Graaf published today in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraf regarding progress on the investigation of the theft at the Kunsthal Rotterdam last month.

Here Arthur Brand, private art investigator, provided an analysis of the article along with his own commentary:
A retired Dutch police office (Dick Gosewehr) is claiming that the police are doing something wrong in their investigation of the Kunsthal Rotterdam heist if they are looking for a getaway car.  If you look carefully at the surveillance video of the theft, you can see that the bags that the the thieves are wearing are what messenger boys use in cities for delivery packages on bicycles.
The police have been desperately searching for an escape car, but these are bags used for when people are carrying something on their back while walking or on the bicycle.  His theory is that they never used a car.
 
If you go to the map showing the Kunsthal Rotterdam in the museum park, you can see it’s difficult to approach the gallery or park a car on a busy street during a robbery.  It would be less conspicuous to travel by bike or to walk because the police would have a hard time finding you.  They might have stashed the paintings somewhere near the museum and maybe 1-2-3 days later when the heat was down, they could have come back to collect the paintings.  It would explain messenger bags and no escape car.
 
The retired police officer says that the CCTV cameras focus on cars and street traffic but wouldn’t necessarily follow someone walking into the bushes.
 
Martin Cahill was known to have buried stolen paintings – and sometimes he could not find them later.
 
Half of Martin’s gang is still in The Netherlands and the Rathkeal Rovers who are still operating have been linked in the past to very big art thefts.  One of them is now in an American jail for tricking an antiques dealer.  The Rathkeal Rovers see each other every November and December when they return to their town to celebrate the holidays so they all know each other.  Irish Travelers, the Cahill gang, and the Rathkeal Rovers all know each other and deal in drugs and steal art.  The Cahill group were not originally Irish Travellers but came from the poorest level of society.
 
George Mitchell and some of the other people took their expertise with them to the Netherlands.  Kunsthall is a temporary art collection.  If they took a look back last year and saw that the paintings were visible through the glass walls then all they had to do was wait for a big exhibition and strike after it opened.  It’s not 100% but rumors go that way and it’s just too obvious.  If police ignore this link, then they are doing a bad job.

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