(This is two of my favorite subjects wrapped into one…high profile crime and stupid criminals…cd)
OSLO (Reuters) – Masked robbers stole three worthless copies of pictures by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch from an Oslo hotel on Wednesday in a bungled raid, almost a year after Munch’s 1893 masterpiece “The Scream” was stolen.
Thieves wrenched the copies off the walls of Oslo’s Hotel Continental with crowbars, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
The thieves struck almost a year after armed robbers stole “The Scream” and another work by the pioneer of modern expressionism from an Oslo museum in front of stunned tourists.
Police were searching for three robbers, two who entered the hotel and one who waited in a getaway car that was found abandoned nearby.
“They both had crowbars and were wearing hoods and masks,” Reuters reporter Anne Merete Henriksen said.
“One told a maid to shut up, but I don’t think they saw me because they were too busy,” said Henriksen who was waiting in the lobby where the pictures were stolen.
The hotel has 12 Munch originals — lithographs, wood cuts and an etching.
Police were using helicopters in their search for the thieves, police officer Vidar Hjulstad said.
“The three paintings were copies but we are handling the case as if they had been genuine,” Hjulstad told Reuters. He said he did not see any link to last August’s museum theft.
“I don’t think these are the biggest criminals we have since they made such a big mistake,” Hjulstad said.
Four suspects are in police custody in connection with the August 22, 2004 theft of “The Scream” and another 1893 Munch masterpiece, “Madonna”. The paintings have not been recovered.
In March three lesser Munch originals were stolen from a countryside hotel south of Oslo but police quickly recovered them and caught the thieves.
Another version of “The Scream” was stolen from Oslo’s National Gallery in 1994 but was recovered several weeks later in a sting operation by police posing as buyers.
The Munch Museum, dedicated to the artist who lived from 1863 to 1944, reopened in mid-June with new security systems.