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Suspected Picasso Thief Isn't Who Police Expected

He's reportedly not a member of a sophisticated gang but just someone who loves art
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 30, 2021 11:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – On Tuesday Greece heralded the discovery of a precious Picasso painting that had been stolen from the National Gallery in Athens in 2012. The Guardian reports that the man suspected of taking "Head of a Woman," along with a work by Piet Mondrian, isn't who police expected. Due to the sophistication of the crime—it happened in just seven minutes and involved an alarm being triggered elsewhere in the building to draw the sole guard elsewhere—law enforcement had long assumed a professional gang was behind it. But police say a 49-year-old builder has admitted to taking the paintings simply because he loved art and wanted to have them.

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He allegedly said it was a one-man job that he planned over the course of six months, during which he visited the gallery near-daily to study the guards' movements "down to when they took cigarette breaks." The BBC reports police say the man kept the works at his home and had no plans to sell them. The suspect allegedly thought police were gaining on him and recently moved the paintings, which he wrapped in plastic, to a dry riverbed in a gorge southeast of Athens. A lawyer for the suspect says he felt "real remorse" and went so far as to help authorities locate the paintings, per the Guardian. Picasso himself gifted the work to Greece in 1949 in recognition of the nation's resistance to the Nazis. The BBC notes that during a press conference about the pieces' recovery on Tuesday, the Picasso accidentally fell to the floor. (Read more art theft stories.)

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