Burglars Strike Again

Burglars+Strike+Again

Alexandra Rumford , News Editor

Robbers can get quite creative in their pursuit of stealing precious goods, even resorting to using fake shoes to stage an exit and divert police from their whereabouts. The illegal possession and trade of valuable goods, such as priceless artworks and heirlooms, has skyrocketed in recent years, which poses an issue for the safety of citizens and the preservation of centuries-old artworks and family jewelry. 

A recent string of celebrity robberies in London, UK, committed by Alfredo Lindley and three others, are just more examples of the worrying string of thefts dotting the globe. The thieves made off with more than twenty-nine million dollars worth of goods over a month-long period. Lindley stole from multiple celebrities’ homes, including Tamara Ecclestone, a Formula One heiress living opposite Kensington Palace. He and a group of accomplices pulled off one of the biggest domestic burglaries in English legal history on Ecclestone’s house alone. While she and her husband Jay Rutland were away on vacation, having left mere hours earlier, the team of thieves equipped with screwdrivers cleared out most of the rooms in Ecclestone’s mansion. They stole over four hundred valuable items from her mansion, including a Cartier bracelet worth over $100,000 and large sums of cash. 

The robbers didn’t stop there. Frank and Christine Lampard were out of their home while one of Lindley’s accomplices, an Italian by the name of Jugoslav Jovanovic, burgled them, taking $56,000 USD worth of valuables, including a white-gold Patek Philippe cufflink and a Cartier pocket watch. Nine days later, Jovanovic and Lindley along with two others burgled the home of a deceased billionaire, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Srivaddhanaprabha’s family reported that his house had been left untouched since his untimely death in 2018. The robbers disturbed a sacred place that was left within the Srivaddhanaprabha family as a “burial” site, escaping with $452,000 in cash and seven Patek watches, which are valued at approximately $200,000 each. Despite the questionable morality of this decision, the robbers were undeterred, moving on to yet another target. Lindley was also linked to a string of robberies in 2009, making away with  a safe containing about sixteen thousand dollars in cash, jewelry, and twenty-eight “fine watches” worth about $226,000 from two soccer players’ homes. 

The real issue is the ease with which the robbers were able to pawn and steal from their victims’ houses. The black market, a way for valuable (illegally obtained) goods to be sold to often-anonymous buyers, processes millions of stolen valuables annually, especially valuable artworks. Although Lindley has been arrested and is awaiting trial in London, he is only one of many, many thieves striving to profit off of others’ riches.

An enterprising art thief located in Amsterdam took advantage of a “starry night”, so to speak, and stole both a Van Gogh painting, titled “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884” and a Frans Hals painting, “Two Laughing Boys”, valued at around eighteen million dollars. He grabbed the Van Gogh painting (located in the Singer Laren Museum), which was unvalued but given its rarity would be sold for a multi-million dollar sum, and escaped on a getaway scooter driven by an accomplice. The unnamed thief repeated this act a few months later at the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden, stealing the Frans Hals painting and left the same way. He was caught because officials noticed his DNA at both crime scenes, and his boot prints matched the ones found in the trellis of the garden outside the museum. He was eventually sentenced to the maximum jail time: eight years in prison. The prevalence of theives stealing priceless works of art and jewelry and escaping has led authorities to get creative. 

In Italy, officials learned of a plot to steal Pieter Bruegel the Younger’s The Crucifixion, a painting valued at over four million dollars. Thieves broke in and smashed the case the painting was housed in, escaping cleanly with their loot- or so they thought. Unbeknownst to the gang, police had cleverly swapped the original painting with a near-identical replica after being tipped off anonymously months prior. 

Although the rate of crime is rising ominously and the huge amounts of valuable goods disappearing each year worry many art and jewelry lovers, officials are doing their best using new technology and strategies to subvert nefarious plots targeting the priceless historical relics of our past.