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National Museum of Romanian History says traces of torched paintings found in Dutch heist probe
A security guard stands near the emergency exit doors used by thieves to carry seven stolen paintings out of Kunsthal museum, as the museum opened it's door to the public following early Tuesday morning's heist, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. Police investigating a multimillion euro (dollar) art heist say they are following up several tips from the public, a day after thieves grabbed seven paintings from the walls of a Rotterdam gallery and vanished into the night. A spokeswoman for detectives on the case, Willemieke Romijn, said Wednesday they have some 15 tips from the public, following a late-night, nationally televised appeal for witnesses to the theft from the Kunsthal gallery of works by celebrated artists including Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse. AP Photo/Peter Dejong.
BUCHAREST (AFP).- Romanian experts sifting through ashes that could contain charred debris of masterpieces stolen from a Dutch museum have identified fragments typical of burnt oil paintings, the museum carrying out the analysis said Thursday.

The mother of Romanian heist suspect Radu Doragu has reportedly admitted to torching the seven stolen masterpieces, including works by Picasso and Monet, in her stove in a bid to destroy evidence.

"We have discovered special, very expensive pigments which have no longer been in use since the second half of the 20th century," National Museum of Romanian History director Ernest Oberlaender-Tarnoveanu told AFP.

The pigments identified in the ashes contain tin, lead and zinc used since the Renaissance but banned today, he said.

Oberlaender-Tarnoveanu would not be drawn on whether the ashes actually contained debris of the stolen paintings.

"Investigators will have to determine this," he said.

But the analysis revealed "residue of one or several paintings, with traces of blue, yellow and red paint ... and nails".

Oberlaender-Tarnoveanu said if the masterpieces -- which have been valued at over 100 million euros ($130 million) -- had actually been burnt it "would be a monstrous crime, a barbaric act ... and a crime against humanity".

Doragu's mother told investigators that after the arrest of her son in January she "was very scared because I knew that what had happened was very serious".

"I placed the suitcase containing the paintings in the stove. I put in some logs, slippers and rubber shoes and waited until they had completely burned," Mediafax news agency on Tuesday quoted her as saying, citing court documents.

Dogaru, her son and four other Romanians will stand trial in August for what has been called the "theft of the century".

The seven masterpieces were swiped from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum on October 16 in less than 90 seconds.

The works stolen include Picasso's "Tete d'Arlequin", Monet's "Waterloo Bridge" and Lucian Freud's "Woman with Eyes Closed".


© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse





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