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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Return O'Toole's Heart For Forgiveness, Absolution & Cash Reward

'Substantial' reward on offer for return of relic

A "substantial" reward is to be offered for information leading to the return of the missing heart of Dublin's patron, Laurence O'Toole, stolen a week ago from Christ Church Cathedral.

Gardai are now trying to track down two men, who may be foreign nationals, who visited the cathedral last Saturday morning. The men were wearing hats and avoided looking at CCTV cameras.

When they were asked to remove their hats they refused to do so, while one of them carried a backpack, garda sources said yesterday.

The men were in the cathedral between 10.30am and midday -- when gardai believe the theft of the ancient relic took place. Gardai have been busy studying CCTV images from the cathedral itself and from surrounding businesses, shops and pubs.

When the men left the cathedral, one of them was carrying his backpack at knee-height and they were later seen running away from the building.

Gardai said they were enhancing video images of suspects and wanted to interview the men.

It is also likely that the thieves visited the cathedral previously to check out the security arrangements, as the heart was stolen from an iron-barred cage.

"The men on the camera footage could be crucial to our investigation and, at this stage, we are anxious to identify them, if only to eliminate them from our inquiries," one officer said.

More information on the reward and how it would be collected is expected to be released this week. But both cathedral staff and gardai are still puzzled by the motive for the crime.

'Relic hunter' may be behind theft of heart

GARDAI investigating the theft of the preserved heart of Dublin's patron saint are enhancing video images of a number of potential suspects.

Church officials now fear a "relic hunter" may be behind the theft of the heart of St Laurence O'Toole from Christ Church Cathedral last weekend.

And there are suggestions the same person may be responsible for last year's theft of the True Cross from the Holy Cross Abbey in Co Tipperary as well as the attempted theft of a relic of St Brigid from a church in Dublin.

Christ Church Cathedral spokeswoman Nuala Kavanagh said there were fears high-profile relics -- such as the head of St Oliver Plunkett which is encased in glass at St Peter's Church in Drogheda, Co Louth -- could also be targeted.

"The dean believes that these are being stolen to order," she told the Irish Independent.

Although there is no monetary value on the preserved heart, it would be of great value to collectors.

"It's black and it's weird and it's eerie," she said.

The video images being enhanced by gardai were collected from an extensive trawl of footage from CCTV cameras in the area last weekend. Senior garda officers are now satisfied that the preserved heart was stolen from an iron-barred cage in St Laud's chapel, some time between 10.30am and midday last Saturday.

They have ruled out earlier suggestions that the thief, or thieves, might have stayed overnight on Friday in the cathedral.

"The men on the camera footage could be crucial to our investigation and, at this stage, we are anxious to identify them, if only to eliminate them from our inquiries," one officer said last night.


But the motive for the theft remains a mystery. Valuable chalices and candlesticks were ignored and nothing else was missing, gardai said.

The relic was kept in a wooden, heart-shaped container, sealed within the small cage and the old bars were prised open for the robbery.

The Catholic and Protestant Archbishops of Dublin joined forces with the capital's lord mayor yesterday to launch an appeal for the return of the heart.

Catholic Archbishop and Primate of Ireland, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said St Laurence O'Toole was the principal patron of the diocese and his relic was venerated there.

He described the relic as the spiritual heart of the city, which belonged to the people of Dublin and the wider Christian community.

Both Catholic and Protestant churches had stepped up security, Ms Kavanagh confirmed.

"We need to be really careful. There's now a call on all institutions for increased security," she said.

Some churches already have security cameras in place, while others have permanent web cameras in place for live streaming of Mass.

The recent spate of relic thefts, which featured in an article this week in the 'New York Times' has made headlines around the world.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop Dr Michael Jackson said the theft had caused shock and distress -- not only in Dublin but worldwide.

"We've been inundated with calls," said Ms Kavanagh. "There is worldwide outrage."

"What we really long to see is the return of the relic, discreetly, so that it may again take its time-honoured place in the cathedral for everyone to see and use in the context of their own tradition and spirituality," Dr Jackson added.

Lord Mayor Andrew Montague said the relic belonged to the city of Dublin and it was important that it was returned to its rightful place.

Inniskillings Regimental Museum burglary - two charged

Two men have appeared in court charged with burglary and theft from a museum in Enniskillen.

James Carlin, 32, from John St, Belfast, and Carlo Holmes, 56, from Clonard Court, Belfast, appeared before Omagh Magistrates Court on Thursday.

They are accused of stealing six helmet badges from the Inniskillings Regimental Museum at Enniskillen Castle on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Holmes was also charged with assaulting a police officer.

A detective told the court that police found medals and a hammer being carried by Mr Holmes who had tried to disguise his appearance wearing a trench coat, scarf and tweed hat.

A third person arrested in a taxi some distance from the museum has been released on police bail.

The magistrate remanded both men in custody until 26 March.

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