Great Britain

Thief jailed after stealing Van Gogh painting from museum

A Dutch court has jailed an “incorrigible and calculating criminal” who stole a Van Gogh painting and another Dutch Master worth £14m.

The 59-year-old man, who was not named under Dutch privacy laws, was convicted on Friday of stealing the Van Gogh work from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam.

He has been sentenced to eight years in prison, the maximum possible sentence.

The man broke into the museum at night, grabbed Van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884 from the wall and then fled on a scooter driven by an accomplice.

A few months later, he pulled off the same heist at the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, about 35 miles south of the Dutch capital.

His target on that occasion was Two Laughing Boys, a 17th century work by the Dutch master Frans Hals.

The Central Netherlands Court said in a statement Two Laughing Boys was valued at €16m, about £14m.

It did not give an estimation of the Van Gogh work also stolen, but on the very rare occasions that paintings by the tormented Dutch master come up for auction, they attract multimillion dollar prices.

Neither of the paintings has been recovered by the police.

Vincent Van Gogh painted about 860 oil works in a decade but battled throughout his life with poverty and depression and ultimately took his own life aged 37 in 1890.

Largely unrecognised as an artist in his lifetime, he later was recognised as an acclaimed painter whose works are among the most valuable paintings ever sold at auction.

The defendant, who has previous convictions for similar thefts of works of art, denied any involvement.

"The court doesn’t believe this," the court said in its statement. "His DNA was found at both crime scenes and the man can’t explain how that is possible."

The court described the paintings as "part of the national cultural heritage, they are important for present and future generations."

"That is why, and given the criminal record of the suspect who is, according to the court, an incorrigible and calculating criminal, the court considers the maximum sentence to be appropriate,” the statement concluded.

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