Valuable paintings by LS Lowry have been stolen by robbers who tied up their owner and threatened his wife and two-year-old daughter with knives.
Louise Aird, 40, let the gang in to the house at Brackenwood Drive, Cheadle Hulme, thinking it was a post delivery.
Three men, armed with knives, tied her art collector husband Ivan up, in what police said was a "terrifying" raid.
Five artworks, thought to be worth more than £1.5m in total, and Lowry's palette and brushes were taken.
The most valuable works are the Viaduct, at about £700,000 and The Tanker Entering The Tyne, which is worth between £500,000 and £600,000.
The others are a pencil sketches - The Bridge at Ringley and The Street Market.
The value of the palette and paintbrushes is not known, because they are so unique.
The raid happened just before 0800 BST on Thursday morning.
Det Ch Insp Linda Reid, of Greater Manchester Police, said: "This would appear to be a targeted attack by burglars who knew exactly what they were looking for.
"They must have known Mr Aird was an art collector and that he would have the paintings in the house.
"These paintings are extremely valuable to collectors but someone would have to know the right people to sell them on to, I would appeal to any art dealers to look at the e-fit and see if it is anyone they know.
"The brutality these men showed to the Aird family was horrific. They may not have physically harmed them but they were left extremely shaken by the whole ordeal."
An e-fit has been produced of one of the robbers. He was white, in his 30s with a round face and was wearing a fluorescent jacket.
Another was of mixed race and the third was wearing a balaclava.
Police also want information on a light blue estate car or people carrier seen close to the house.
Thieves threatened to kill girl, 2, as they stole Lowrys at knifepoint
By Ian Herbert
Published: 05 May 2007 The Independent
An art dealer who knew LS Lowry from childhood was attacked and tied up by knife-wielding thieves who stole works by the artist worth more than £1.4m.
The raiders assaulted Ivan Aird, 41, at his home in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire, on Thursday and threatened to kill his two-year-old daughter before making off with prized paintings, The Viaduct, valued at more than £700,000, The Tanker Entering the Tyne, worth up to £600,000, and treasured brushes and a pallete which belonged to Lowry.
Mr Aird knew Lowry through his father George, and the artist was a regular visitor at the family's home most weekends from the 1960s until his death in 1976.
"The guys burst in through the door with a big knife," said Mr Aird. "They tied me up with cable ties and put me down on the floor. All they said was they were going to murder me. It was absolutely terrifying.
"I've been a lifelong fan of LS Lowry. My father bought paintings from him. They [the stolen paintings] are very well known. If these people try to sell the paintings on, they will be recognised so I am hoping we will get them back."
The theft reflects soaring demand for Lowry (1887-1976), one of the most collectable British artists. The value of his work has been increasing at between 20 and 25 per cent a year. Another Cheshire gallery owner lost a £115,000 Lowry oil last September when masked robbers armed with a cast-iron manhole cover broke into his gallery in the village of Hale. The gang heaved the cover out of a pavement a quarter of a mile away from the Clark Art Gallery and hurled it through the plate glass front window to secure access, having tried and failed to run a wooden plank through the gallery's windows.
Once inside, the thieves picked out 15 paintings. The Lowry oil was among three pieces by the Salford artist that were taken, along with Sit Terry Frost's Red Wedge, valued at £52,000.
Britain's art market is second only to the US and experts claim up to £200m worth of stolen art and antiques are sold each year. Interpol estimates that art theft is the fourth largest organised crime. However, Scotland Yard's arts and antique squad has been scaled down and has left the nation's heritage in peril, according to fine art insurers.
Also stolen in the latest raid were Pencil Sketch of The Surgery, valued at £38,000 and Pencil Line Drawing The Street Market, valued at £50,000.
Police yesterday released photographs of the stolen paintings and have also produced an e-fit of one of the offenders, described as white, in his 30s, with a round face and wearing a fluorescent jacket. Another is described as mixed race and the third was wearing a balaclava. All three spoke with local accents.
Detective Chief Inspector Linda Reid, from Stockport CID, said: "This would appear to be a targeted attack by burglars who knew exactly what they were looking for."
Armed raiders steal £2m Lowry artworks from dealer’s home
An art dealer and his wife told yesterday how thieves armed with knives threatened to kill their two-year-old daughter before stealing paintings and drawings by L. S. Lowry, worth £2 million.
The raiders struck at the home of Ivan Aird, 41, a fine arts dealer, in Cheadle Hulme, near Manchester, at 7.50am on Thursday. Louise Aird, 40, was cradling their daughter, Sabrina, in her arms when she opened the front door to a man she assumed was the postman.
She was confronted by three men who tied up Mr Aird and said that they would murder him and the child if they did not get what they wanted. They made off with two well-known Lowry paintings, a number of pencil drawings and the artist’s palette and brushes.
The Viaduct is valued at more than £700,000 and The Tanker Entering the Tyne at £600,000.
Detectives believe that the burglars knew what they were looking for. Mr Aird, a director of Grove Fine Art, is the son of George Aird, Lowry’s framer. Mr Aird is a well-known dealer in Lowry originals, providing works to collectors around the UK and Europe.
He said: “The guys burst in through the door with a big knife and said they were going to kill our daughter. They tied me up with cable ties and put me down on the floor. All they said was that they were going to murder me. It was absolutely terrifying.”
Police have released photographs of the paintings and the three sketches. Detective Chief Inspector Linda Reid said: “These paintings are extremely valuable to collectors but someone would have to know the right people to sell them on to. I would appeal to any art dealers to look at the e-fit and see if it is anyone they know.”
Shelley Rohde, the author of L. S. Lowry: A Biography, said that The Viaduct was an iconic image. “Nobody is going to buy these works because this theft is going to get on the grapevine pretty quickly.”
There are fears, however, that once the thieves realise that the paintings are unsaleable, even on the black market, they may destroy them.
Officers said one of the men was white and wore a fluorescent jacket. Another was of mixed race and hid his face behind a balaclava. There were reports of a light blue estate car outside the house.
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