Stolen Picasso and Mondrian Paintings Found Stashed in a Ravine in Greece

ATHENS — When work by Picasso and Mondrian and a sketch by the Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia went lacking from the National Gallery in Athens in 2012, it was the start of a thriller that lasted for practically a decade.

That thriller ended this week when the works by Picasso and Mondrian have been recovered unscathed from a ravine in a forest close to Porto Rafti, a city east of Athens.

In custody isn’t a gang of thieves who deliberate a Hollywood-style heist, however a 49-year-old development employee, with the Twitter title ArtFreak, who was arrested on Monday.

The theft seems to have been years in the making as an obsession with artwork morphed into one thing felony. The suspect, who was showing earlier than an investigating Justice of the Peace on Thursday, is reported to have informed the police that he had “always been interested in art.”

Comments that the suspect made to investigators have been leaked in the Greek information media, and the suspect’s lawyer, Sakis Kehagioglu, confirmed that what has been printed is what his consumer informed the police. The suspect’s title has not but been launched by the authorities.

The suspect detailed his daring, one-man break-in, telling the police, “In 2012 I entered the National Gallery and got three paintings,” in keeping with the leaked feedback. He mentioned he “deeply” regretted his actions, which weighed on his conscience and left him sleepless.

The three artworks have been Picasso’s “Head of a Woman,” a 1939 work that the Spanish grasp devoted to the Greek folks for his or her resistance to Nazi occupiers in World War II; “Stammer Windmill,” a 1905 work by the Dutch painter Mondrian; and a sketch by the 16th-century Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia. The Caccia sketch was broken throughout the theft and discarded, the suspect informed the police.

The 49-year-old suspect, proper, is reported to have informed the police that he had “always been interested in art.”Credit…Yannis Kolesidis/EPA, through Shutterstock

After confessing, the suspect led officers to the ravine and a briefcase wrapped in plastic containing the Picasso and Mondrian works. According to the information reviews, the suspect mentioned he had moved the work there in May after studying that the police is perhaps onto him.

Before that, the suspect had saved the work on the dwelling of a relative that he continuously visited to have a look at them, Mr. Kehagioglu, his lawyer mentioned.

“He was an art lover, he wanted to see the paintings, to enjoy them,” Mr. Kehagioglu famous, including that he would search leniency for his consumer, who he mentioned confronted 5 to 10 years in jail if convicted of the theft.

Greek information media reported claims on Wednesday and Thursday from artwork historians in the Netherlands and Italy that makes an attempt had been made to promote the works.

Mr. Kehagioglu mentioned his consumer had made no effort to promote the works.

The suspect reportedly informed the police that he had spent months making “constant visits” to the National Gallery to familiarize himself with the works and house “until I believed that one of them could become mine.”

“These thoughts tormented me for about two years and led me to make the biggest mistake of my life,” he was mentioned to have admitted.

For the six months earlier than the theft, the suspect mentioned he had visited the gallery greater than 50 occasions, finding out not solely the works and the house, but additionally the conduct of the guards and the situation of home windows and cameras.

“I knew all the guards’ habits, when they changed shifts, who smoked, who went out in the garden,” he mentioned in the leaked feedback. “And that’s how I decided to do the robbery,” he added. “I hadn’t decided which work I would take, but just that I wanted one.”

To put together for the theft, he mentioned he had purchased black garments and boots and readied a few of his development work instruments — a hammer, a chisel and a knife. The day of the theft — Sunday, Jan. eight, 2012 — was chosen at random. He took the metro into city, modified garments in a park subsequent to the gallery and waited till the museum’s 9 p.m. closing time, earlier than discovering a balcony with unsecured doorways. When he moved a door and a beep sounded, he mentioned, he reconsidered his plan of action, went for a fast stroll and smoked a number of cigarettes — the butts of which he mentioned he gathered in a bag — earlier than returning to strive once more.

Police officers looking for proof on the National Gallery in Athens after the theft in January 2012.Credit…Louisa Gouliamaki/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“That’s when I decided that annoying the security guard was the best way to do the theft, by making him believe that there was a technical problem in the alarm zones,” the suspect informed the police. So he opened and closed the door a number of occasions to confuse the guards. But it was not till four o’clock the next morning that he entered the gallery, he mentioned, describing in element the gradual technique of sneaking and crawling by way of the rooms. His account suggests he got here throughout his loot nearly by chance.

“I got up and found myself in front of the painting by Picasso,” he mentioned, including that he eliminated it from the wall and then from its body earlier than doing the identical with the Mondrian and the Caccia.

That course of took 5 to seven minutes, he mentioned.

Mr. Kehagioglu, the lawyer, mentioned that his consumer was no common thief and that his regret had led to the work’ protected return. “There are bank robbers that steal millions and never give it back,” he mentioned. “He showed genuine regret.”