Acclaimed musician Min-Jin Kym has talked of her “elation” after the British Transport Police tracked down her Antonio Stradivarius violin, worth £1.2m, following an almost three year search.
Ms Kym, 35, feared the instrument, which dates to 1696, was gone for good after it was stolen while she ate in a Pret-a-Manger outside Euston Station in 2010.
“The loss of the instrument and the acute responsibility I felt, was at the back of my mind at every moment of the day,” the Korean-born violinist said.
“I’ve now gone from devastation to the other end of the scale – an incredible feeling of elation that hasn’t left me. I’m still feeling the butterflies in my stomach and am on cloud nine.”
The violin was recovered with minor damage from a property in the Midlands last week after officers “acted on a line of enquiry”. Further details about the investigation were not disclosed.
Along with the violin a £62,000 Peccatte bow and a bow made by the School of Bazin, valued at £5,000, were recovered. Ms Kym will now meet with the insurers to work out a plan to buy it back.
At the time of its theft an appeal was launched on BBC's Crimewatch programme, and police were confident it would be very difficult to sell illegally because any expert would immediately recognise a 1696 violin made by the craftsman Antonio Stradivari.
A 32-year-old man, John Maughan, and two teenagers were arrested in connection with the theft in 2011, but police had been unable to track down the stolen items themselves – until now.
They worked with musical antiques experts to identify the instrument, and were understandably cautious; in March a violin recovered in Bulgaria was initially reported to be Ms Kym’s but was later found to be a cheap replica.
Jennifer Pike, a violin soloist, said: “It was a huge story. The theft was just so terrible, my heart dropped thinking about it.”
Ms Pike, who plays a Matteo Goffriller violin made in 1708, said: “A violin is like a loyal friend. Over the years you discover new things about the sound and it becomes part of you. I can’t imagine having that taken away.” She added: “It’s like a living thing, and they have such a long history.”
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Taylor, who led the hunt, said: “We're absolutely delighted to have recovered the Stradivarius violin after a long and very complex investigation.
“I always maintained that its rarity and distinctiveness would make any attempt to sell it extremely difficult, if not futile, because established arts and antiques dealers would easily recognise it as stolen property.”
Louise Deacon, an instruments expert at the Lark insurance broker, said: “We are really happy to have such a valuable and treasured instrument back in the world of classical music where it belongs.
“We are looking forward to the outcome of our experts’ assessment on the condition of the instrument so we can then liaise with Ms Kym with regards to purchasing back the Stradivari.”
In the wake of the violin’s recovery, British Transport Police reminded travellers to look after their property on trains and at stations – particularly if it might be valuable.