Sat, Sep 02, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Oslo smiles over `Scream' recovery


Gro Balas, who chairs the Munch Museum board, left, and colleague Jorunn Christoffersen smile in Oslo on Thursday after Norway's police announced the stolen Edvard Munch masterpieces ``The Scream'' and ``Madonna'' had been recovered. The version of ``The Scream'' seen in the background is not the one that was stolen


The Edvard Munch masterpieces The Scream and Madonna have been recovered two years after masked gunmen stole the paintings from a Norwegian museum, Oslo police announced.

At a news conference on Thursday, police said both paintings were in better than expected condition, and were recovered in a police operation.

The paintings were stolen in a bold, daylight raid from the Munch Museum in Oslo on Aug. 22, 2004.

"The pictures came into our hands this afternoon after a successful police action," said Iver Stensrud, who headed the police investigation into the theft.

He said the police had been working intensely for two years to find the paintings. He said no reward had been paid.

"All that remains is an expert examination to confirm with 100 percent certainty, that these are the original paintings. We believe these are the originals," Stensrud said.

The Scream, which shows a figure apparently screaming or hearing a scream, has become a modern icon of human anxiety. There are three other versions of the painting.

"I saw the paintings myself today, and there [was] far from the damage that could have been feared," Stensrud said.

He said it was not possible for the news media, or the public, to immediately see the paintings. He also refused to discuss the methods or details of the search.

Oslo's Munch Museum expressed delight over the national treasures being recovered.

"I am almost crying from happiness," said Gro Balas, who chairs the museum board.

"They have been given a cursory examination, but for now I am content just to feel overjoyed," she said. "The word we have about their condition is reassuring."

The paintings had remained missing despite the conviction of three suspects in the case in May, an international police hunt and the offer of a 2 million kroner (US$294,000) reward by the City of Oslo, which owns the paintings.

Stensrud said three people convicted in the theft had not contributed to the recovery of the paintings. He also said police believe the paintings had been in Norway the whole time.

"We feel we have been hot on the trail of the paintings the whole time, but it has taken time," he said.

In May, three Norwegians were sentenced to prison in the case by the Oslo District Court, but the masked gunmen remain at large.

Petter Tharaldsen, 34, was convicted of driving the getaway car and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Bjoern Hoen, 37, was sentenced to seven years in prison, and Petter Rosenvinge, 38, to four years for their roles in providing and preparing the getaway car.

Tharaldsen and Hoen were ordered to pay 750 million in compensation to Oslo.

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