FBI submits DNA samples, hopes to crack Gardner Museum theft case
BOSTON (AP) – The FBI is hoping advances in DNA technology can help solve the 20-year-old heist of 13 masterpieces from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Boston office told The Boston Globe the lead agent in the case is resubmitting evidence taken from the scene for DNA analysis at the agency’s scientific laboratory in Virginia.
Agent Geoffrey Kelly said he could not disclose what evidence would be reviewed, but experts familiar with the case said it would probably include duct tape used to bind two museum security guards.
In one of the world’s biggest art thefts, two men disguised as police officers talked their way into the museum shortly after midnight on the morning of March 18, 1990, subdued and handcuffed the two on-duty security guards, then stole 13 works of art valued at more than $500 million. The stolen paintings included The Concert, one of Johannes Vermeer’s 35 known paintings, and three works by Rembrandt van Rijn, including his only seascape, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, and a small self-portrait print.
Also stolen were a series of drawings by Edgar Degas and additional works by Édouard Manet and Govaert Flinck, as well as two objects: a Chinese Ku, or beaker, and a finial from a Napoleonic flag. It is considered the biggest art theft—and property theft—in history. The museum still displays the paintings’ empty frames in their original locations according to the strict provisions of Gardner’s will, which instructed that the collection be maintained without change.
In late 2005, as part of a concerted effort to enhance security, the museum hired a former Homeland Security official who helped to rebuild security at Logan Airport after the events of September 11, 2001. MAC Systems and General Electric also conducted a large-scale and comprehensive upgrade to the facility’s access control system. More upgrades are in the works to ensure that the events of March 18, 1990 are never repeated.
A reward of $5 million is offered for information leading to the return of the works of art in good condition.
The theft is the subject of a 2005 documentary called Stolen, which, in a slightly different version, had earlier appeared previously on Court TV.
Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.boston.com/globe; and www.wikipedia.org.
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