15,000 pounds painting taken in new thefts at art fair

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The Independent Online
A PHOTOCOPIER, a pounds 15,000 painting and seven mobile phones are among up to 17 items reported stolen from this year's Olympia Art and Antiques Fair.

Items on the missing-list seem to say as much about the fair's security as the Nineties thief: they include antique vases, a pounds 9,500- Persian carpet and a bronze statuette, two hydrotherapy units ( pounds 1,850 each) and a dozen bottles of suntan lotion ( pounds 78).

That the photocopier disappeared during opening hours last Sunday also says something about the thieves' bare-faced confidence.

There were a series of thefts at the fair three years ago. One dealer claimed that security was so lax that eight paintings were taken from his stand.

Although fairs can be havens for the opportunist thief and cannot have the security of Fort Knox, the organisers said then that there had been an extensive review of the security system following the theft of 10 clocks and small antiques in 1990.

One police source said: 'The situation at this fair has got worse.'

This year, one exhibitor reported that, just after cashing up but while serving a customer, pounds 420 disappeared from a jacket pocket; another lost a pair of 1815 Worcester vases with images of Fonthill Abbey and the Royal Crescent in Bath, valued at pounds 1,850; and the Persian carpet, measuring 12ft by 9ft, may have disappeared overnight. Both the pounds 15,000 painting, which was signed by H Zatzka, and the bronze statuette, depict nude females.

Robin Hope, director of Olympia Exhibitions Ltd, said it was difficult to see how it could improve security. He said that someone had been arrested for the theft of a mobile phone.

A spokeswoman for the art fair said that 'about 10' items had been stolen. She believed the photocopier was taken from another fair in an adjacent hall, and she seemed to think the art fair thefts were being confused with a health fair that had taken place.

However, Mr Hope confirmed that the same security firm, Sterling Granada, part of the Granada Group, is responsible for all the halls. The head of security was unavailable for comment.