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September 30, 2016

April 26, 2003 - Museum Theft, The Whitworth Art Gallery at The University of Manchester, Manchester, England

Sometime after 9 pm on April 26, 2003 three works of art estimated to be worth approximately £4 million, were stolen from the Whitworth Art Gallery at The University of Manchester in England. 

The thief or thieves are reported to have entered the Whitworth by applying force to the rear steel-covered doors. The artworks were then quickly removed from the Margaret Pilkington room without anyone noticing. 

The paintings taken were:

The Fortifications of Paris with Houses (The Ramparts of Paris), Summer 1887
by Vincent Van Gogh
Watercolor, gouache, chalk and pencil on paper, 40 x 54 cm

Poverty (Les Misérables), 1903 Barcelona
by Pablo Picasso 
Ink and blue watercolour, 37.5 x 26.7cm


Tahitian Landscape, 1891-93
by Paul Gauguin
Watercolour and pencil on paper, 16 x 27 cm

Thanks to an anonymous tipster, possibly the culprit, all three artworks were recovered, located by police on Monday, April 28, 2003.  They were found in a disused public lavatory in Manchester's Whitworth Park, less than a quarter mile away from the museum.  Unfortunately, the artworks had not been treated delicately.   They were retrieved from inside a soggy tube where they had been rolled up carelessly and stuffed indiscriminately inside.

As a result of their manhandling, the paintings had suffered from exposure to humidity.   The Van Gogh watercolour had also suffered a not insignificant tear.

Along with the artwork, Law enforcement discovered a handwritten note that lamented on the poor security at the the Whitworth. The note read "the intention was not to steal. only to highlight the woeful security."