Tip leads South African police to $2 million stolen artworks hidden in cemetery


Click to follow
The Independent Culture

A tip from an informer has led South African police to a private cemetery where they found four paintings which had been stolen from a museum hundreds of miles away, authorities said.

The tip is the latest twist in a heist that saw $2 million US dollars (£1.25 million) worth of art stolen on Sunday from the Pretoria Art Museum by gun-wielding thieves posing as eager students with their teacher.

One oil painting of a South African township streetscape by artist Gerard Sekoto remains missing.

An officer received a tip from an informer that led him to a private cemetery in Port Elizabeth, a city about 700 miles from Pretoria, said Brigadier Marinda Mills of the South African Police Service

There, under a bench near a memorial wall with plaques naming the dead, officers found four of the missing five pieces of art, she said.

Brig Mills said police had started to verify that the paintings found, all in good condition, were the originals.

"From a layman's perspective, it appears to be the missing art," she said.

No arrests have been made, but officers continue to investigate in the area in the hope that the other stolen painting may be nearby, Brig Mills said.

The theft from the Pretoria Art Museum saw robbers calmly pay for tickets and ask a curator to show them specific paintings at the gallery before they pulled out guns and forced all others to the ground, officials said. They tied up the curator and others before collecting the paintings they had previously asked about, officials said.

The robbers left behind another oil painting showing two musicians because they were not able to fit the painting inside their getaway car, a silver sedan, authorities said.