|The Regent's Canal and entrance to the Islington Tunnel|
Murdered in North London, then bound and tied to a shopping cart in attempt to keep his copse submerged under water, Sebastiano Magnanini's badly decomposed body was discovered by a passerby near an Islington tunnel on the Regent’s Canal not far from King's Cross a little over a week ago. The area where the victim's body was recovered is popular among boaters, some of whom live in houseboats which dot the sides of the canal. The footpath is also popular among walkers and cyclists looking to escape the capital’s busy streets.
This is all authorities have released about the grisly demise of Venetian art thief once jailed for 18 months for his part in the 1993 theft of the 1732 painting The Education of the Virgin by Italian Rococo artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo from the church of Santa Maria della Fava, also originally known as Santa Maria della Consolazione, in the sestiere of Castello in Venice, Italy.
Described by his friends and family as a free spirit, Magnanini, was a resident of the Cannaregio quarter in Venice but lived outside of Italy. He changed countries as the mood or work suited him. In 2003 he moved to Plaistow, east London, then later to Thailand and Vietnam embracing a free-spirit hippy lifestyle and making ends meet by teaching English. Later he moved to Cambodia where he worked briefly as a tour guide for an Italian company. Then this summer he moved to the UK capital where he had begun working as a carpenter.
Surveillance cameras in the area, used for the purpose of observing the zone show assailants attacking and then killing Magnanini. Investigators with New Scotland Yard, who are handling the investigation do not believe that Magnanini's homicide is linked to organised crime, moreover his brother Matteo Magnanini also insisted his brother “Seba” was not involved in any criminal activity. In an interview with The Evening Standard Matteo said
"The press is painting as a criminal just because of its past, but my brother was a romantic spirit and he lived his life fully, seeking peace and happiness." “For us and all [who knew him] he was a unique and very special person, always there to cheer anybody up and make their day a memorable one."
Magnanini was sentenced in 1998 to 18 months in prison for his role as a bumbling one-time art thief in the theft of the Tiepolo artwork. Like many of Italy's churches, Santa Maria della Fava had no alarm or surveillance system and during the heist Magnanini simply hid inside the church until it closed for the evening, then cut the canvas painting from its altarpiece frame, and exited the church before heading to a nearby bar to smoke.
The slightly damaged painting was recovered 3 months after the theft, rolled up and tied with a simple shoelace, hidden in a farmhouse near the city’s Marco Polo airport.
Italian newspapers are speculating that Magnanini may have been the simple victim of a drug deal that went wrong. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Reeves via the incident room on 020 8721 4868, alternatively, the police non-emergency line on 101 or, if the wish to remain anonymous, via the UK's Crimestoppers line at 0800 555 111.