Fri, Feb 17, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Thief pockets two rare artifacts from Canadian museum

AFP, MONTREAL

A thief hurdled motion detectors, video surveillance and round-the-clock guards at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to pocket two rare and valuable archeological artifacts last year, the museum announced on Wednesday.

Details of the theft late last year of the archeological relics — an Assyrian bas-relief and a marble head dating from the Roman Empire — were withheld to avoid compromising a police investigation.

Now the museum’s insurer AXA Art is offering a C$10,000 (US$9,960) reward for help identifying a male suspect in his 30s from surveillance video footage and an additional “substantial reward” for the artifacts’ safe recovery.

“Although the museum is naturally concerned about the monetary value of the stolen objects, it is particularly sorry to have lost these two quality objects from the collection, and regrets that the museum’s visitors will no longer see them on display in the galleries,” museum spokeswoman Danielle Champagne said.

The museum has security guards on the premises at all times. Exhibits are protected by motion detectors and all of its pavilions are monitored by video surveillance.

“Recorded video surveillance footage of the incident clearly shows the perpetrator carrying out the theft,” a museum statement said.

Yet, the suspect carrying only a satchel managed to slip away with the items, each smaller than a loaf of bread.

Tyler & Co fine art loss adjuster Mark Dalrymple said the items are “very rare” and estimated to be worth several hundred thousand dollars.

He said “any precise valuation would be meaningless” as it is illegal to trade in stolen antiquities and “any knowledgeable dealer will know what they are.”

The thief, he added, “may be waiting for a few months” before attempting to sell them.

It is likely that the easily portable objects have been sent outside Canada.

The museum published photographs and a video of the suspect wearing a black vest, jeans and a baseball cap, but his face is blurred.

Montreal police, meanwhile, are still investigating.

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