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Violinist Min-Jin Kym's stolen Stradivarius worth $1.8 million found in Britain after three-year hunt
The recovered £1.2m 1696 Antonio Stradivarius violin, found with the £62,000 Peccatte bow and another bow made by the School of Bazin - valued at more than £5,000.

By: Danny Kemp

LONDON (AFP).- British police said Tuesday they have recovered a rare Stradivarius violin worth £1.2 million ($1.8 million, 1.4 million euros) that was stolen from its owner in a London railway cafe in 2010.

Thieves took the antique instrument, which was made in 1696, and two valuable bows from Korean-born violinist Min-Jin Kym as she ate at London's Euston station.

It was recovered from a property in central England last week, police said, without giving further details. Three people were jailed in connection with the theft in 2011.

"It's been a very difficult journey, I still can't quite believe what has happened," said the 34-year-old violinist after the instrument was returned to her.

"The loss of the instrument, and the acute responsibility I felt, was at the back of my mind at every moment of the day. I'd played the instrument since I was a teenager, so it'd been a huge part of my identity for many years."

Police said the violin was discovered intact with very minor damage. It was found in its case along with a missing £62,000 Peccatte bow and a bow by the School of Bazin worth £5,000.

Kym added: "I've now gone from devastation to the other end of the scale -- an incredible feeling of elation that hasn't left me. I'm still feeling the butterflies in my stomach and am on cloud nine."

Thief John Maughan, then aged 30, was jailed for four years after pleading guilty to the theft of the violin in April 2011. Two London teenagers aged 15 and 16 were sent to youth detention centres.

The discovery of the missing Stradivarius comes after a false lead in March this year when police thought the violin had turned up in Bulgaria, only for it to be revealed as a fake around a century old.

This time antiques experts have verified the find.

Detective Simon Taylor, who led the hunt for the Stradivarius, said he was "delighted".

"I always maintained that its rarity and distinctiveness would make any attempt to sell it extremely difficult, if not futile, because established arts and antiques dealers would easily recognise it as stolen property," he said.

Violins made by Italian Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737), considered by many the world's most important luthier or crafter of stringed instruments, are extremely rare and valuable. There are probably no more than 600 still in existence.

The instruments have a habit of making the news. In 2007 a Stradivarius violin worth $3.4 million was stolen from the home of an Austrian musician but recovered a month later.

But a $3 million Stradivarius stolen from the New York apartment of violinist Erica Morini in 1995 remains on the US FBI's list of top ten unsolved art crimes.

There have also been several cases of musicians losing them.

In 1999 the cellist Yo-Yo Ma left his Strad cello in a New York taxi, although it was recovered undamaged, while in 2008 US violinist Philippe Quint gave a taxi driver $100 and performed a free concert for returning an instrument he had left in the back of a cab.

Last year violinist Alexander Dubach left his on a train in Switzerland and it was handed in at a lost property office.

Watch violinist Min-Jin Kym giving her reaction to the recovery of the £1m Stradivarius violin

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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