Former FBI investigator: 95 percent chance of art being recovered

Author
NZME staff,
Publish Date
Mon, 3 Apr 2017, 7:24AM
The two Lindauer paintings stolen from a Parnell art gallery (NZH).

Former FBI investigator: 95 percent chance of art being recovered

Author
NZME staff,
Publish Date
Mon, 3 Apr 2017, 7:24AM

A former FBI art theft investigator believes a trail of forensic evidence will have been left by the Parnell ram raiders.

The thieves smashed the window display of Parnell's International Art Centre and took off with two Lindauer portraits in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Former investigator Robert Wittman told Rachel Smalley there's a 95 percent chance they'll be recovered.

"Ultimately they're going to come back to market, and when they do -- whether it's through inheritance or through discovery, or these individuals try to sell them -- that's when we'll recover them.

"The one time they don't come back is if they are destroyed."

Mr Wittman told Rachel Smalley the only way the thieves would likely get away with their crime was if no evidence was left behind.

In this case he said there was a lot of forensic evidence that risked placing them at the scene; marks and damage caused by the ram-raid, CCTV footage, eye-witness accounts and a "lot of forensic evidence".

"You've got a stolen vehicle that's been used as a ram. There's got to be evidence on video. There's got to be some eye witness material out there.

"That's what gets you caught."

Mr Wittman labelled the theft of two Lindauer paintings from a Parnell gallery as unsophisticated.

He said it was unlikely those responsible had a clear plan when they crashed a ute through the glass front of the International Art Centre in Parnell.

"Ultimately this wasn't a sophisticated robbery, it was more of spur of the moment; some individuals who saw some value and said 'this is what we are going to do'."

Mr Wittman who has been involved in arts thefts investigations for more than 30 years said it was unlikely the heist was "made to order".

"Usually what I've always seen is individuals take these things as they want to try to monetise them."

He told Smalley while they might have successfully made off with the goods it was a "terrible" business plan.

"When it comes to art they are considered to be very valuable," he said. "But they don't realise until after they have it, now they have a problem, because really it's difficult to sell in any kind of market."

The famous works are estimated to be worth $1 million as a pair, and date back to 1884.

A spokesperson for the Auckland location Newstalk ZB's not identifying, said they don't want to advertise the paintings' location, because that might "support the burglary industry".

They say because the event happened over the weekend, they've yet to decide if they'll beef up their security around the valuable artworks.