What’s the motive for museum thefts?



What’s the motive for museum thefts?

James Ratcliffe – May 30, 2018
Gold reliquary containing Anne of Brittany’s heart. Photo: Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images

Two recent museum thefts can be taken to illustrate the thinking behind such crimes. One, in Nantes, saw thieves snatch a 16th-century solid gold reliquary containing the preserved heart of a French queen from the Thomas-Dobrée museum. The other, in Bath, involved the theft of Chinese jade and gold from the Museum of East Asian Art.

The Nantes theft was carried out in the night between 13 and 14 April, with the thieves breaking in through a window. Although the loss of the heart of Anne of Brittany, which had only gone back on display on the Tuesday of the preceding week, attracted the majority of attention, the thieves also took a range of gold coins and medals and a gilt sculpture of a Hindu deity – the latter presumably in the mistaken belief that it too was gold. This theft appears to be a prime example of opportunism. The return to display of the reliquary presumably drew the attention of the thieves and they then took the first available opportunity to take it, and other items that appeared valuable to them at the same time. Little planning was presumably carried out if amongst their haul of gold was a gilt sculpture of far lower financial value. The fact that the reliquary was subsequently buried just outside Saint Nazaire (a nearby town), from where it was recovered after police were led to it following two arrests, indicates that it is unlikely that the thieves had thought beyond the initial ‘smash and grab’ element of their crime and had not considered how to dispose of their haul.

In contrast – although superficially similar in that the thieves broke in through a window during the early hours of the morning – the theft from the Museum of East Asian Art in Bath on 17 April appears to have been highly targeted. The pieces taken seem to have been selected based on their quality and cultural significance, rather than simply their material, which ranged from jade to soapstone to zitan wood, or obvious financial value. The thieves made their selection of objects rapidly and fled the scene in under five minutes before the police could arrive, indicating that significant planning must have gone into the robbery. Again in contrast to the Nantes theft, as yet it appears that none of the material stolen has been recovered, nor have any arrests been made.

This is not the first time that a European museum has suffered from what appears to be a targeted theft of Chinese material. Similar thefts have taken place over the last decade in Durham, at the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge, and at the Château de Fontainebleau. This kind of crime appears to be carried out with a specific view to then selling the pieces stolen to the Chinese market where it is relatively easy to find a buyer, and the chances of a piece being identified are far lower than if it were offered to the Western art market.

Sadly, museums are particularly vulnerable to targeted thefts such as this. Their very nature, with publicly listed catalogues of their collections (the full collection of the Museum of East Asian Art is available online), and outreach programs to ensure that people are aware of their existence and holdings, means that for those who are seeking particular types of item and are prepared to secure them through illicit means they are almost a shop window for criminals. It is essential that museums resist the temptation to keep their collections private, but their public nature does mean that it is also essential to factor in security when planning exhibitions, building works, and storage.

Equally, museums remain vulnerable to opportunistic theft of pieces on display such as appears to have been the case in Nantes. It is rare, but criminals see the pieces within museums as valuable, and thus worth stealing if an opportunity to do so arises. As in this case though, they rarely have a plan for how to turn that value into cash, and thus end up hiding the items when it becomes clear that they are not as easy to fence as they might have hoped.

Ultimately, for the general public, historians, and museums themselves, the outcomes of these thefts are often sadly indistinguishable: the loss of items integral to their collections. Tackling museum theft is dependent upon financial resources for security and policing, but for museums, especially those with lower budgets, an increased awareness of the types of items likely to be liable to targeted theft, and of the risks of opportunistic theft prompted by publicity, is well worth keeping in mind.

James Ratcliffe is director of recoveries & general counsel at the Art Loss Register, London.

Girl, 17, plotted grenade attack on British Museum, court told



Girl, 17, plotted grenade attack on British Museum, court told

Safaa Boular allegedly began to plan terrorist attack after her Isis militant fiance was killed in Syria


A teenage girl plotted to launch a gun and grenade attack on the British Museum after her attempts to become a jihadi bride were thwarted, a court heard.

Safaa Boular was 17 when she allegedly decided to become a “martyr” after her fiance, an Islamic State militant was killed in Syria.

She was so determined to attack London that she enlisted the help of her older sister after she was charged with planning to go to Syria, the Old Bailey heard on Thursday.

Rizlaine Boular, 21, had already admitted planning an attack in Westminster, that was allegedly to involve knives, with the alleged help of their mother, Mina Dich, 43, the jury was told.

Duncan Atkinson QC, prosecuting, told how Safaa Boular’s alleged plotting followed a failed attempt to marry the Isis member Naweed Hussain.

The couple declared their love for each other in August 2016, after three months of chatting on social media, the court heard.

Atkinson told jurors Boular wanted to join Hussain in Syria where they would carry out an attack. He said: “Their plan then was that together they would, as Hussain put it, depart the world holding hands and taking others with them in an act of terrorism.”

The court heard Rizlaine Boular had also tried to go to Syria two years before.

After Safaa Boular’s plan was uncovered, she allegedly switched her attention to Britain, keeping contact with Hussain through the encrypted messaging service Telegram.

The security services deployed specially trained officers to engage in online communication with them, jurors heard.

Atkinson said: “It was clear that Hussain had been planning an act of terrorism with Safaa Boular in which she could engage if she remained in this country. Both Hussain and Safaa Boular talked of a planned ambush involving grenades and/or firearms.”

She also told an officer posing as an Isis militant that all she needed was a “car and a knife to get what I want to achieve”, the court heard.

Atkinson said: “Based on her preparation and discussion, it appears she planned to launch an attack against members of the public selected largely at random in the environs of that cultural jewel and most popular of tourist attractions, the British Museum in central London.”

An attack would have caused at least widespread panic and was intended to cause injury and death, the court was told.

When she learned Hussain had been killed in April 2017, Boular’s determination was strengthened, the court heard. She was allegedly encouraged by her mother and sister to become a “martyr”.

But within days, she was charged with planning to go to Syria and was unable to carry out her “chilling intentions”, Atkinson told the court.

He said: “However, that those intentions were not just chilling but sincere and determined is demonstrated by the fact that she did not abandon them even when she was unable to put them into effect herself. Rather, she sought to encourage her sister Rizlaine to carry the torch forward in her stead.”

Atkinson told jurors that Rizlaine Boular, of Clerkenwell, central London, had admitted preparing acts of terrorism, which was apparently to be a knife attack in Westminster.

Safaa Boular, now 18, who lived at home with her mother in Vauxhall, south-west London, denies two counts of preparing acts of terrorism.

The trial continues.

Wallingford community comes together to help cleanup historic site

Wallingford community comes together to help cleanup historic site


Wallingford community comes together to help clean up historic site

WALLINGFORD — Community members all around the state are coming together to help each other clean up from Tuesday’s storm damage. On Sunday Wallingford community members came out to help clean up a historic site.

“The Cheshire, Wallingford Hamden area got especially hard hit as you know they designated some as tornado (damage),” Cheshire resident Richard Straub said.

The Silver Museum sits on South main street. I was built by Franklin Johnson in 1866, making it one of the oldest in town.

Jerry Farrell “Just devastated luckily the house was still fine but the backyard which we use a lot for events and historic demonstrations was just filled with disheveled trees,” Wallingford Preservation Trust President Jerry Farrell said.

Farrell put out the call for help to clean up the debris and more than a dozen people came ready to lend a hand.

“We live in this town and we love this town so many areas, just even our town alone let alone the whole state was just devastated, we got really lucky,” volunteer Marty Mansfield said.

Museum board members say luckily the damage to the building was minor but times like this show just how important neighbors helping neighbors can be.

Thieves stripped almost £5,000 worth of lead from the roof of the Fusilier Museum in Bury

The theft took place hours before a huge celebration was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the regiment

Brazen thieves stripped almost £5,000 worth of lead from the roof of an army museum, just hours before a huge celebration took place to mark the regiment’s 50th anniversary.

Bosses at the Fusilier Museum in Bury are now appealing for the public’s help after the ‘heart-breaking’ daylight theft.

They’ve launched a crowdfunding drive to help repair the damage at the museum, which is run by a charitable trust and is not insured against vandalism.

Staff discovered the theft when they opened up the museum in the town center on Sunday morning. It’s believed the thieves loaded the lead onto a van while police and staff prepared for the parade.

Later that day hundreds of spectators lined the streets of Bury to see veterans and serving soldiers march through the town center to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers’ formation.


Museum general manager Helena Briden said everyone involved with the museum was devastated by the theft.

It’s thought the thieves may have posed as workmen and climbed up scaffolding, put up to allow repairs to take place to the museum roof.

Helena said: “It’s absolutely brazen. We think it was done in daylight, either early evening on Saturday or at dawn on Sunday as it would be impossible to strip the lead in the dark.

“Then we think on Sunday morning they’ve loaded the lead into a van while there were policemen and lots of people around getting ready for the parade.

“It’s heart-breaking. There’s no other word for it.

“I came into work really excited on Sunday looking forward to taking part in the festivities. And the parade and the church service was amazing, but the theft did put a bit of a dampener on things.

“But we have got to move on from it now. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and get on with it.”

The theft took place hours before a huge celebration to mark the regiment’s 50th anniversary

Helena said in recent weeks the museum, with help from businesses, a donation from the Masons and assistance from the regiment, had forked out for repairs to the roof and a new heating system.

It meant staff was now hoping the public would help pay to replace the stolen lead.

“Any donations, no matter how small, would be so, so helpful to the museum,” added Helena.

The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was formed in 1968 by the amalgamation of four Fusilier regiments, including the famous Lancashire Fusiliers, and recruits from across Greater Manchester.

Since the regiment’s formation, the Fusiliers have seen service across the world, including in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, the Balkans, the Gulf, and Afghanistan.

They’re famous for winning ‘six Victoria Crosses before breakfast’ in the First World War landings in Gallipoli, Turkey.

Two of the VC medals are on display in the museum.

A GMP spokeswoman said inquiries were ongoing.

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‘Irreplaceable’ 17th Century banister destroyed after businessman pulled it from wall of Victoria & Albert museum


The Telegraph

‘Irreplaceable’ 17th Century banister destroyed after businessman pulled it from a wall of Victoria & Albert Museum

2 MAY 2018

Victoria and Albert Museum main entrance CREDIT: VIEW PICTURES/UIG VIA GETTY IMAGES

The relic, worth £1000, was particularly popular with the blind, who use the space to experience the art through touch, Hendon magistrates heard yesterday.

The oak baluster dates from 1670-1680 and was intended to be a handrail with a spiral central section finely carved in the Restoration style.

A Victoria and Albert spokeswoman told The Telegraph it would have been made by turning the wood on a special lathe, and the piece has been a part of the museum’s permanent collection for 112 years.

She said: “However, it has been an important part of the display in the British Gallery as it gives visitors the chance to physically feel the quality of the work done by craftsmen three hundred years ago.

“It was a particularly important part of the visitor experience for our blind guests. We run a programme of events tailored for blind and partially sighted visitors which focus on the touch objects.

“The information sign which accompanied the baluster was also written in braille so that blind visitors could learn more about the piece.”

Despite admitting that it was his handwriting that signed the guestbook to gain access to this area, Said denied it was him who broke the artifact.

He told police: “I’m being arrested for something I didn’t do.” The authorities traced him using his address and signed a message that he left in the V&A guestbook

But after failing to appear for trial, the businessman of Kensington, West London, was convicted of one count of criminal damage and an arrest warrant has now been issued.

Angela O’Dwyer, prosecuting, said: “This item is what’s known as a ‘touching object’ – members of the public are permitted and even encouraged to touch it.

“But he goes much further than that and pulls it off the wall and it breaks into pieces.

Said, who currently lives in an EasyJet hotel, was convicted of assault last year and has also received a suspended jail sentence for making death threats in Croatia.

He even “posed” for the CCTV cameras at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London while looking at objects in a special “touching” area, Hendon Magistrates court was told.

His actions have meant that he faces a ban from the V&A and its affiliated museums once the police locate him for sentencing.

Repairing the damage to the relic, which was particularly popular with both blind and disabled visitors, will require specialists.

District Judge Helen Clarke said: “It’s an irreplaceable item given its age and specialist repair is going to be needed.”

The museum’s spokeswoman added: “The V&A takes the security of our visitors, staff, objects, buildings, information, and reputation extremely seriously.”

Damage caused by Simcoe County Museum fire estimated at $50,000



Damage caused by Simcoe County Museum fire estimated at $50,000 (Ontario, Canada)

37 Springwater firefighters responded to the call  by: BarrieToday Staff

Springwater fire crews try to get at a stubborn fire in the wall and roof of the Simcoe County Museum on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Kevin Lamb for BarrieToday.
At approximately 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 21, 2018, Springwater Fire and Emergency Services responded to reports of a working structure fire at the Simcoe County Museum on Highway 26 in Minesing.

Two stations were dispatched with a third quickly added, resulting in 37 Springwater firefighters and 13 fire apparatus responding to the call. Upon arrival, firefighters found smoke rising from the roof of the museum.

Prior to their arrival, museum staff had managed to quickly and safely evacuate everyone from the building. Firefighters used thermal imaging cameras to detect a fire located in the walls and ceiling of the building.

Crews were able to breach the roof and knock down the fire within approximately 40 minutes. Firefighters worked with museum staff to preserve the exhibits located in the Living and Working Gallery.

“Firefighters did a fantastic job, working quickly to gain control of the fire,” says Deputy Fire Chief Jeff French. “Their efforts ensured that there was minimal damage to the building and artifacts located within.”

The cause of the fire was deemed accidental as a result of ongoing construction activity. Damage is estimated at approximately $50,000.