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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Scream Thief, Overdose, or Mickey Finn ??

"The Scream" thief died of overdose, police say

OSLO (Reuters) - One of three thieves who stole Edvard Munch's masterpiece "The Scream" and another of his paintings has died of an apparent drug overdose while still at large, Oslo police said on Thursday.

"The Scream" and "Madonna" were stolen in August 2004 by two masked gunmen in an audacious raid on Oslo's Munch Museum in front of stunned tourists. The artworks were recovered by police this August.

The raiders forced visitors to lie on the floor, yanked the paintings off the wall, and escaped in a getaway car driven by a third man.

The dead 27-year-old was identified as one of the thieves by an undercover police officer who infiltrated a group of drug users, police district said in a statement.

It said the man died on November 3, presumably of an overdose of heroin, but they were still waiting for the autopsy results.

"Through the information obtained in this operation, police believe that the third thief has been identified with a high degree of certainty," it said.

In May three men -- one who drove the getaway car and two who were involved in providing the car -- were convicted by an Oslo court and sentenced to four to eight years in jail. They have lodged appeals.

The court acquitted three other men accused of involvement in the theft.

Police Inspector Iver Stensrud declined to say what role the dead man played in the theft or to identify him by name. "Most of this information will be used in February next year in the appeals court," he said.

Police have also declined to reveal how they recovered the paintings in August.

Stensrud said he hoped the police investigation was now closer to getting to the bottom of the theft "but we have to wait and see because there still will be a lot of questions during the (appeals) court case".

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