Police ‘fail to notice’ art theft, allowing Kunsthal thieves to escape

A series of blunders by police and security officials allowed thieves to get away with seven valuable paintings from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal last October, the AD reports on Thursday.

The AD bases its claims on legal documents and an interview with a lawyer for the defendants.

The paper says police, alerted by the alarm, carried out an inspection but failed to realise the museum had actually been broken into because the thieves had closed the door behind them.

In addition, security staff wondered if the gaps on the walls of the exhibition were due to paintings being moved. It was only 75 minutes after the alarm went off that officials realised paintings had been stolen, the AD said.


Lawyer Maria Vasii even claims police saw the suspects shortly after the robbery. ‘One officer waved, as if to say “all’s fine boys”,’ the lawyer is quoted as saying.

The paper says the thieves were so shocked by their narrow escape they left the paintings in their getaway car on the nearby Coolsingel canal and did not pick them up until the next morning.

The works, including paintings by Picasso and Matisse with a value of some €17m, were not smuggled out of the country for several days.


Five suspects will appear in court in Romania next week in connection with the theft and one is still on the run. At least three of the paintings are thought to have been burned when the thieves were unable to sell them but it is not yet clear which ones.

According to website nu.nl, the Rotterdam public prosecution service has admitted police left the building after failing to spot the robbery and returned later but denied this was a blunder.

It was up to the museum security staff to determine if anything was missing, the spokeswoman is quoted as saying.

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