Gallery paintings ‘stolen to order’ for collector
PAINTINGS seized during a heist at an Edinburgh art gallery are believed have been stolen to order for a private collector, the Evening News can reveal.
Works by the acclaimed Scots artist Peter Howson were seized during a late night raid on the Art Mart in May.
Police chased two men seen running from the scene with some of the paintings and apprehended them, recovering the remainder from a white van nearby.
At Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday, George Mountford, 27, pleaded guilty to breaking into the London Road store on May 5 this year and stealing the paintings, worth £16,000.
His co-accused, Gary McKenzie, 28, a prisoner in Saughton, admitted reset of one painting.
Today art dealer Douglas Fyfe, proprietor of the store, said it was believed that the paintings had been stolen to order rather than being an opportunistic crime.
He said: “They were organised and the paintings were by Peter Howson, the well-known Scottish painter, so I think they were done to order.
“One painting was hidden behind some of the others and couldn’t have been seen from outside, so I think someone had been in before to check out the place.”
Mr Fyfe, who has operated his art business on London Road for 13 years, said it was extremely rare for paintings to be stolen in such a manner in Scotland.
He added: “I was phoned at 2am by the police and when I went down there were police cars there and they had already been caught.
“I have been there 13 years and its the first time anything like this has happened. It’s very rare, I haven’t heard of anything like this at all in Edinburgh or Scotland even.”
Yesterday, at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, fiscal depute Michelle Young told Sheriff Michael O’Grady QC, that Mr Fyfe had secured the building after 6pm on May 4, locking the front door and securing metal gates with two padlocks.
At 2.43am the following morning, a member of the public phoned police to say the front door of the premises was wide open and Mr Fyfe was contacted.
Officers searched the surrounding area and two men were seen in Alva Place carrying paintings. Police followed and found two paintings discarded on the road. Mountford had turned into Rossie Place, where he was arrested.
McKenzie had gone into Easter Road where officers in a police car found him standing outside a Scotmid store “sweating and out of breath”.
Ms Young said a white van, belonging to Mountford, was found in Rossie Place, in which four paintings were found. Also in the van were various items, including gloves, a crow bar, pliers, hammer and bolt cutters.
Ms Young said none of the paintings had been damaged. The glass on one had been broken and two had broken frames. She added that the damage to the premises had cost £135 to repair.
Sheriff O’Grady deferred sentence on both men while reports on their background were carried out.
LS Lowry painting thieves to pay back just £6,500
TWO Merseyside crooks caught with stolen LS Lowry paintings and drugs will pay back less than £6,500 of their ill gotten gains.
Malcolm Shield and Kevin Marlow were jailed in March for their part in a plot involving artwork by the iconic painter, which was stolen in a vicious armed robbery in 2007.
Despite being caught red handed with the original artwork, worth an estimated £1.7m, and a massive cache of drugs at Marlow’s flat they pleaded poverty and will have to pay back a fraction of the cash they were judged to have made.
Shield, 41, was arrested when officers from the north west regional crime team Titan raided his home, in Arncliffe Road, Halewood, last year.
Working on a tip-off, detectives watched a betting shop in Bootle where they saw local men Kevin Marlow, 29, and Gerard Starkey, 50, meet up.
Starkey brought the missing paintings for Marlow who was then tailed back to Halewood and arrested at Shield’s flat with two Lowry classics – The Viaduct and Tanker Entering The Tyne – along with 40,000 ecstasy tablets and amphetamine worth around £250,000.
The rest of the missing paintings stolen from art dealer Ivan Aird were found in Starkey’s lock up in Bootle.
In March Shield received seven and a half years in jail, Marlow got six and a half years, and Starkey was jailed for three years and three months.
At a proceeds of crime hearing at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday Judge Graham Morrow QC found Kevin Marlow, of Halby Road, Bootle, to have benefited to the tune of £851,027 based on a reduced valuation of £450,000 for the two paintings which had been damaged by the way they had been stored, and £393,000 based on a pair of cocaine “tick lists” found in his house showing money owed from drug dealing, plus some cocaine and cannabis.
He will have to pay back £2,430 based on some cash already seized and the resale value of a Renault Scenic.
Shield was judged to have benefited to the amount of £149,839 based on the lowest estimated value of the drugs in the house.
He was said to be “merely a custodian” of the paintings.
He was ordered to pay back £3,960 of his available assets, made up of cash seized by police at the time.
The amount Starkey, of Southport Road, Bootle, has to pay will be decided later today .
Shield’s girlfriend, 33-year-old Erin Edwards, was found guilty of possession of amphetamine and received a suspended prison sentence.
She was ordered to pay back a nominal £1 sum.
LS Lowry, who famously painted scenes of the industrial north with match stick figures, was a friend of Ivan Aird’s parents.
When Mr Aird became an art collector like his dad he hung Lowry’s paintings in his home.
But early in May 2007 a bogus postman and three other thugs tied up his wife and threatened his daughter, then two, with a knife before stealing the paintings.
Hired muscle Casey Miller, from Denton in Manchester, was jailed indefinitely in 2009 was after being convicted of being the fake postman.
None of the rest of his gang, or the mastermind behind the raid, have yet been caught.