Throughout history brazen thieves have attempted to carry out audacious heists that have shocked the world.
Some have walked away with huge fortunes, while others have been caught out by high-level security in place to protect priceless pieces of art and precious artefacts from being stripped out of museums.
Some of the most daring heists include the Mona Lisa being stolen by a worker who simply lifted it off the wall, thieves of an Edvard Munch leaving a note which read: ‘Thank you for the poor security’, and a sledgehammer-wielding robber smashing his way to a Vincent Van Gogh painting.
Just in August, British museum curator Peter John Higgs was fired after being accused of stealing priceless treasures from the British Museum. It was reported at the time that there were up to 2,000 items missing which were worth ‘millions’.
Higgs, who was described as one of Britain’s top experts on Greek and Mediterranean ancient artefacts, was said to be furious after being sacked, with his son claiming he was innocent. He was not arrested.
Even more recently, a manhunt was launched today to track down a gang who stole historical silver antiques in a ‘planned and targeted attack’ on a military museum in Nottinghamshire.
Just today, a manhunt was launched to track down a gang who stole historical silver antiques in a ‘planned and targeted attack’ on a military museum in Nottingham. Pictured: The hole sawed by a gang of thieves to steal ‘priceless’ silver historic antiques
Going back to 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia, who worked in the world-famous Louvre museum in Paris walked up to the Mona Lisa, took it off the wall, extracted it from its case, and took it home
The British Museum worker sacked over missing priceless treasures Peter John Higgs (pictured)
The bold heist, which involved cutting a hole in the floor, was carried out at the Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum at Thoresby Park in Newark in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Among the treasures stolen was a parcel and gilt rosewater dish – said to be the sister piece to the famous Wimbledon women’s singles trophy.
The attack, reminiscent of a Hollywood heist movie, was only uncovered when the case containing the precious treasures was moved.
It then became clear that robbers had drilled up through an archway in the building and burrowed through several layers of wood to gain access to the silver cabinet.
Other pieces stolen from the museum include the Hurlingham Grand Military Polo trophy, statuettes of mounted soldiers and a cavalry trumpet.
Going back to 1911, Vincenzo Peruggia, who worked in the world-famous Louvre museum in Paris walked up to the Mona Lisa, took it off the wall, extracted it from its case, and took it home.
Some 112 years later, despite its simplicity it is still one of the most recognised art heists in history.
Peruggia kept the painting hidden in a trunk for two years before he was caught trying to flog it to a gallery in Florence. He said he wanted to return it to its homeland.
The Mona Lisa was eventually returned to the Louvre, but in the meantime police had accused a number of people of theft, including Pablo Picasso.
Pictured: Stolen silver trophy at the Nottinghamshire military museum. Detectives believe the theft occurred between 2.40am and 3.30am
Pictured: A silver piece that was part of the large haul of antique silver stolen from a display case at the Royal Lancers & Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum at Thoresby Park
Fifty years later, on the same date as the Mona Lisa theft, Francisco Goya’s portrait of The Duke of Wellington was stolen from London’s National Gallery by Kempton Bunton.
The Duke which was released in 2020 starring Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren depicts the heist which saw Kempton steal the painting to raise £140,000 for a cause close to his heart – ensuring elderly and poor people could get free TV licences.
Four years after Bunton climbed through a bathroom window – which he had previously left ajar – he turned up at a police station and confessed to the theft.
Bunton’s lawyer Jeremy Hutchinson QC, managed to persuade the jury that his client had borrowed the painting and he was only convicted of stealing the frame.
In 1994, two brazen men used a ladder to break in to Oslo’s National Gallery and take Edvard Munch’s Scream painting.
Rubbing salt in the wounds, they subsequently left a note which said: ‘Thank you for the poor security.’
The museum refused to pay a ransom charge of $1million, but the painting was later recovered.
There were four versions of the painting created by the artist and a decade later another was stolen from the same gallery by masked gunmen in broad daylight.
Several of the thieves were convicted but it wasn’t until two years later the police managed to recover the painting.
Elsewhere, there was the Dresden museum attack in 2019 which was dubbed the biggest art heist in modern history.
Five men have been convicted of orchestrating and carrying out the theft of 18th-century jewels worth £100 million from a Dresden museum in 2019.
Francisco Goya’s portrait of The Duke of Wellington was stolen from London’s National Gallery by Kempton Bunton in 1961
Two men used a ladder to break in to Oslo’s National Gallery and take Edvard Munch’s Scream painting – of which there was four versions – in 1994
Dubbed the biggest art heist in modern history, five men have been convicted of orchestrating and carrying out the theft of 18th-century jewels worth £100 million from a Dresden museum in 2019
The Dresden state court ruled that the five men aged 24 to 29 were responsible for the break-in at the eastern German city’s Green Vault Museum on November 25, 2019
The theft included 21 pieces of jewellery containing more than 4,300 diamonds with a total insured value of at least 113.8 million euros (£99 million)
The Dresden state court ruled that the five men aged 24 to 29 were responsible for the break-in at the eastern German city’s Green Vault Museum on November 25, 2019, and the theft of 21 pieces of jewellery containing more than 4,300 diamonds with a total insured value of at least 113.8 million euros (£99 million).
Many of the pieces were badly damaged and some are still missing, including a brooch that belonged to Queen Amalie Auguste of Saxony.
About 40 people are believed to have been involved in planning the heist and are still wanted.
Furthermore, the five men cannot be forced to give any testimony on the whereabouts of the treasures, even though they have been convicted.
A year later, in 2020, astonishing CCTV footage showed the moment an art thief smashing his way into a Dutch museum to steal a Vincent van Gogh painting.
Armed with a sledgehammer, the burglar broke through reinforced glass doors at the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam before fleeing with the artwork tucked under his arm.
The theft in the early hours of March 30 2020 dealt a fresh blow to the gallery which had already been forced to shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In March 2020, security footage from the Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam shows the moment a burglar broke in through the gift shop on a mission to steal a Van Gogh painting
The Parsonage Garden At Neunen In Spring 1884, by Dutch master Vincent van Gogh, was stolen from a Dutch museum which was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The painting was recovered in September this year
The painting by the Dutch master, entitled The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884, was missing until September this year when it was returned to an art sleuth in an Ikea bag.
Andreas Bluhm, the director of the Groninger Museum – which had loaned the painting out – said in a statement: “The museum is extremely happy and relieved that the work is back.
“We are very grateful to everyone to contributed to this good outcome.”
“Police have been closely involved in all phases (of the recovery of the painting),” the museum added.
Also in March 2020, three historic paintings dating back to the sixteenth century and thought to be worth millions of pounds vanished from an art gallery after an overnight heist.
The alarm was raised when thieves broke into the renowned Christ Church Picture Gallery, in Oxford at 11pm.
Described as ‘one of the gravest art thefts ever’ by an art expert, in 2015 bandits dressed in black entered the 14th century fortress at closing time and took paintings including masterpieces by Tintoretto, Rubens and Bellini.
The men made their escape from Castelvecchio Museum in the security guard’s car before switching to another vehicle.
The bandits tied up and gagged the site’s security officer and a cashier with one of the men watching over the hostages while the other two raided the exhibition rooms.
At the time, Roberto Bolis, Verona council spokesman said the museum had 24-hour security but the robbery had been planned so that the thieves arrived after the building emptied but before the alarms had been activated.