In bizarre twist, woman confesses to burning 7 masterpieces to protect art thief son
Suspected evidence of the stolen paintings, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, have been found in a Romanian mother’s oven.
Fri, Jul 19 2013 at 12:18 PM
Matisse's “Reading Girl in White and Yellow” (left) and Picasso's “Harlequin Head" (right) are feared to have met a fiery fate. (Snapshot/YouTube)
When Radu Dogaru was arrested on suspicion of organizing one of the greatest art heists of the century, his mother did what any protective, crime-abetting mom would do: she destroyed the evidence.
In a case that clearly highlights the extremes a parent will go to, Olga Dogaru, a lifelong resident of the small Romanian village of Carcaliu, chose shielding her son from prosecution over protecting some of the art world’s most precious paintings.
She appears to have placed seven paintings that her son had brought home four months earlier — including masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Gauguin, Lucian Freud and Meyer de Haan — in a wood-burning stove and set them ablaze.
Earlier, Radu Dogaru had been accused of stealing the paintings, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in a brazen theft from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam. Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London,” were amongst the pilfered paintings, along with Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window,” Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head,” Matisse’s 1919 “Reading Girl in White and Yellow” de Haan’s 1890 “Self-Portrait” and Freud’s 2002 “Woman With Eyes Closed.”
His apprehension sent momma Dogaru into a spiral of maternal panic.
In her statement to the police, reports the New York Times, Olga said that upon her son's arrest, she was worried that the paintings would be used as evidence against him. She set out to hide them in various places, before burying them in the village cemetery; yet her anxiety persisted.
Then, “an idea sprang into my mind,” she reported to the police. In a plot line worthy of Edgar Allan Poe, Olga said she lit a fire in the stove and dug up the art from the cemetery. “I put the whole package with the seven paintings, without even opening it, into the stove, and then placed over them some wood and my plastic slippers and waited for them to fully burn,” she said.
“The next day I cleaned the stove, took out the ash and placed it in the garden, in a wheelbarrow.”
Authorities and experts, not to mention art lovers everywhere, are hoping that the confession is an invention. But the fate of the paintings is looking grim after forensic scientists at Romania’s National History Museum have analyzed the remaining ashes. Specific pigments and pre-Industrial Revolution hardware used by artists of the era were found among the debris.
“Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling that a huge and horrible crime happened, and the masterpieces were destroyed,” Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, the director of the National History Museum, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. If so, he added, it would be “a barbarian crime against humanity.”
The AP reports on the crime in the video below:
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