a 49-year-old criminal who was jailed for four and a half years for damaging a €10m painting is also the chief suspect for robbing a massive haul of artwork and rare books which were discovered in his west Dublin home in April.Andrew Shannon (49) of Willians Way, Ongar had pleaded not guilty to damaging the Claude Monet painting entitled Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sail Boat (1874) at the National Gallery of Ireland on Clare Street on June 29, 2012.
Mr Shannon claimed he had felt dizzy and fell forward, telling two tourists from New Zealand and a member of security staff that he had a heart condition. A jury of seven women and five men returned a verdict of guilty on that charge yesterday following an eight-day trial.
The court heard Shannon has 48 previous convictions in this and other jurisdictions, some of which are for burglary and theft offences involving antiques.
About 60 pieces of art, including paintings, statues, antiques and rare books, were seized by officers from Pearse Street garda station at Shannon's home. Shannon has previous convictions for stealing from stately homes in England as well as for handling stolen property, including maps dating from 1651 with a value of €6,000.
The huge haul which gardai discovered in April was the subject of a garda appeal when many of the items were put on display. The haul included 48 paintings by renowned Irish-based artists like William Ashford, Robert Ballagh and Graham Knuttell, worth well over €100,000.
Shannon was on remand in prison when the raid on his Ongar home took place in April and has not yet been questioned or arrested about the haul.
The artworks were stolen from locations as diverse as Maynooth, Blarney and England. He is expected to be questioned over the coming months.
The revelation comes as senior sources told the Herald that the investigation into Shannon's vandalism of paintings at the National Gallery, as well as the failed prosecution for damaging paintings in the Shelbourne Hotel, have cost "hundreds of thousands of euro".
A senior source pointed out that gardai had to travel to the United States to interview witnesses and other witnesses had to be brought from New Zealand for the trial at a major cost to the State.
The case also involved hundreds of man hours for investigating officers as well as two lengthy trials.
Irishman jailed for stately home thefts
A SERIAL thief who travelled from Ireland to target English stately homes has been jailed after a caretaker at Yorkshire's Castle Howard saw him stuff two valuable watercolours into his laptop bag.
Andrew Shannon, 44, described as unemployed and illiterate, robbed six stately homes of antiques and paintings worth thousands of pounds on a "weekend spree" of stealing.
Shannon travelled from Dublin to target famous buildings across the country, including Blenheim Palace and Chatsworth House.
Together with an accomplice, he stole ornamental lions, porcelain vases, figurines, expensive books and even an antique walking stick from Belvoir Castle – which was identified as missing by the Duke of Rutland.
The four-day spree came to an end on a Sunday last August at Castle Howard, when a caretaker spotted Shannon lurking on a second floor of the home where the public are not allowed.
He claimed he was looking for a toilet, but staff grew suspicious and found two 800 paintings hidden in his laptop bag.
He also had a walkie talkie which he used to communicate with his accomplice and a Chinese ceramic lid – the other half of which was with the other thief, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Police later traced Shannon's car and found a satellite navigation unit which had been programmed with six stately homes across the UK.
In court he admitted his part in six burglaries.
Jailing him for three years him at York Crown Court, Recorder Deborah Sherwin said: "Your purpose for travelling to England was to carry out this spree of theft.
"You travelled around the country visiting stately homes and stealing from them. It was pre-planned, you took advantage of these vulnerable homes that do not have the most sophisticated security measures in operation."
Prosecuting, David Brooke, said: "The two men visited a number of stately homes between July 30 and August 3 last year. But they were not innocent tourists visiting them for their beauty, this was a long weekend of crime."
Defending, Taryn Turner, said that Shannon had been claiming disability benefits after being seriously injured in a car crash in 1996. As a result he had suffered four heart attacks.
Speaking after the sentencing, Sgt Daniel Spence, of Malton Police Station, said: "Shannon is a prolific international travelling criminal with numerous convictions of a similar nature and his visit to the UK was with the sole intention of stealing works of art from stately homes and country houses.
"An accomplice in this case was detained by the Gardai in Dublin and has been dealt with in Ireland for handling stolen goods. The Crime Prosecution Service and the police are working towards attaining an arrest warrant and bringing him back to the UK."
He added: "It is a good result for Castle Howard and the police."
Shannon brothers sought over stolen antique books
They were given bail and told to return to a Gloucestershire police station in July 2011, but failed to appear.
Among the items is a Chinese porcelain goose valued at around £20,000.
The books offered for sale in South Cerney date between 1571 and 1962.
A number of them contain personal inscriptions, including one to the wife of Sir Winston Churchill.
There is also a bronze sculpture by Clodion and a green hardback book of poetry, The Wild Harp by Katherine Tynan.
Inside is written: "To Lady Glenconner."
The books and ornaments are believed to have been stolen from stately homes or possibly National Trust properties across England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
A Gloucestershire police spokesman said officers have been working to try to locate the men and they are now asking the public for their help to find them.
Picasso artwork stolen from Art Miami fair
David Smith, owner of the Amsterdam-based Leslie Smith Gallery, said he arrived at the booth Friday morning to find an empty plate holder on the wall where the artwork hung Thursday night.
“I’ve been doing art shows all my life. Even when I was a kid, I went with my parents,” he said. “I’ve never, ever had anything stolen.”
Smith reported the theft to the show and to Miami police, who came and dusted for fingerprints, he said.
The 1956 piece, Visage aux Mains (Face with Hands), is a 16.5-inch-wide silver plate engraved with, naturally, a face and hands. It’s Number 16 in a 20-plate series, Smith said, and is valued at about $85,000.
Art Miami is located at 3101 NE First Ave. in a temporary tent facility apparently guarded by the same company that conducts security for Art Basel, which is located at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
At Art Miami, which is a separate fair entirely, security includes 24-hour guards at entrances and exits, as well as locks and chains on the doors. There is no video surveillance of each booth, which is hardly unusual for art fairs.
“There’s an investigation going on,” said Nick Korniloff, the fair’s director and partner.
Overnight, he added, cleaning crews, fair employees and booth operators would have had access to the site. The fair has a list of all personnel working on the premises.
According to Smith, a security guard did a walk-through at about 10:30 p.m. and the Picasso was still in place. Smith said he himself left Art Miami at about 8:30 p.m. last night, with his gallery collection whole. The Picasso had hung there since Monday.
When he walked in at about 10:45 a.m. Friday, Smith said, the piece was gone.
By the time fairgoers started to arrive at 11 a.m., all they saw was a label beneath where the Picasso had been. “Signed, numbered & Stamped with silver marks,” the label read in part.
Police asked the gallery to keep the booth untouched as they investigated, which means Smith could hardly focus on selling art in the fair’s first two hours — usually the busiest ones of the day.
“We had to shoo people off the booth,” he said. “I definitely missed people I didn’t speak to.”
Nothing else in his booth was missing or appeared disturbed, Smith said. The Picasso plate wasn’t the most valuable artwork on display, according to Smith: For example, a Picasso ceramic just below where the plate was hanging is worth about $365,000. The missing piece will be reported to an international database of stolen artwork.
Smith speculated that the plate might have been small enough for someone to hide under a sweater or jacket. The neighboring ceramic piece was smaller but easier to break — and easier to spot as a Picasso, perhaps making it less attractive to steal.
“If you steal art, if it’s from a famous artist, it’s going to be hard to re-sell,” he said. “Either somebody steals it for himself to keep, or somebody, somewhere, someday will realize it’s stolen.”
Red Bull Formula 1 trophies stolen in Milton Keynes factory raid
Team principal Christian Horner said they were "devastated" by the break in as the trophies "took years and hard work to accumulate".
Night staff working at the site were not harmed, Thames Valley Police said.
'Aggressive break-in' Horner said: "The break-in caused significant damage and was very upsetting for our night officers who were on duty at the time.
"Beyond the aggressive nature of this break-in, we are perplexed why anyone would take these trophies.
"The value to the team is of course extraordinarily high due to the sheer hard work and effort that went into winning each and every one.
"But their intrinsic value is low; they would be of little benefit to those outside of the team and, in addition to that, many of the trophies on display were replicas."
The F1 championship and constructors trophies were not at the factory, having been presented to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes for winning the 2014 titles.
"The actions of these men mean it's likely that we will have to make our site less accessible in the future, which will be unfair on the hundreds of fans that travel to visit our factory each year to see our trophies and our Formula 1 car, added Horner.
In addition to the silver 4x4, a black or dark blue Mercedes estate car was also involved. Both are believed to have foreign number plates, police said.
Detectives are appealing for witnesses.
Thief walks out with €500,000 sculpture from Italy's national modern art museum
Theft provokes an outcry over security as a robber walks away with the 19th century bronze hidden under his jacket in broad daylight
Staff were reportedly distracted with the staging of an art show elsewhere in the building but security cameras captured the thief leaving the gallery.
Museum director Maria Vittoria Marini Clarelli defended its security as members of the Carabinieri's culture squad were called to investigate.
“The system is very well-equipped with alarms and video surveillance but we cannot give any more information as investigators have asked us for the utmost discretion,” she said. “The video cameras filmed everything.”
She confirmed that the sculpture was insured for £400,000.
It is the latest embarrassment for the modern gallery that was recently revamped. Three armed robbers stole two works by Dutch master Vincent Van Gogh and another by French impressionist Paul Cezanne in 1998. The works were later recovered.
Art crime is a booming business according to the United Nations, and is the fourth most lucrative sector in international crime after drugs, money laundering and illegal arms shipments.
Missing sculpture found in locker of Rome museumPolice working on theory that thief returned with art work
A bronze sculpture by Italian artist Medardo Rosso was recovered in a museum locker at Rome's Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna (GNAM) on 8 December, three days after it was stolen, according to a report in Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica.
Considered one of Rosso's masterpieces, the Bambino Malato or Sick Child sculpture dates from 1893-1895, and is valued at €500,000. The bronze bust was noticed missing at around 16.30 on 5 December, during opening hours, from a pedestal in room 48 of the museum.
Police are working on the theory that the thief returned to GNAM and deposited the sculpture in the locker area which had already been searched following the theft. The artwork belongs to the museum's permanent collection and was on show as part of the current exhibition Secessione e Avanguardia.
The Italian culture ministry said that the museum's closed circuit television and alarm systems were fully operational at the time of the theft.
In 1998 three armed robbers stole two works by Vincent Van Gogh and another by Paul Cèzanne. The paintings were later recovered.
Born in Turin in 1858, Rosso was a Post-Impressionist artist and is considered by many to be Italy's answer to Auguste Rodin. He is best known for his half-formed bronze, plaster and wax sculptures, and he died in Milan in 1928.
Burglars waltz out of Madrid art gallery with 70 paintings
Security guard questioned thieves but did not suspect any wrongdoing
The thieves entered Galería Puerta de Alcalá in the early hours of Thursday by first breaking into the adjacent premises, a former bar that has been closed since last year. They then punched a hole through the wall leading into the gallery, and deactivated the alarm once inside.
A security watchman from a nearby construction site saw the men walking out with paintings in their arms and went over to ask them some questions, but did not suspect that they were burglars.
“Is this merchandise yours?” he reportedly asked.
“We’re taking the paintings out of the gallery to put them on display somewhere else.”
“At this time of the night?”
“We have to get an early start to get there in time.”
The burglars, whom the security guard described as having Eastern European accents, spent two to three hours taking out art, propping it against nearby trees and loading it into a van. Then they drove off with their haul.
Pedro Márquez, who used to run the gallery before handing it over to his son, said that “in the last 40 years we have never taken out a single painting at 5am.”
The stolen art includes 14 paintings by Segarra Chías, a painter from Seville whose work was going to be the subject of a solo show at the gallery; work by the Valencian painter Eustaquio Segrelles; and pieces by Juan González Alacreu.
“Given the amount of paintings they took and the way they took them out, wrapping them in plastic after a careful selection, they must have been here between two and three hours,” explains Márquez.
The gallery owners have photographic records of all the stolen material, and they plan to make these images public to prevent the art from being sold on the black market. Meanwhile, the police are working to locate the art thieves.