ALLEGED art thief Brett Michael Williams leaves court yesterday.
ALLEGED art thief Brett Michael Williams leaves court yesterday.

Art theft accused faces Lismore court

By ALEX EASTON

THE man charged with what could be Australia's smallest major art heist grinned and waved as he searched for an escape route from Lismore Court House.

Brett Michael Williams, a 43year-old finance consultant from Southport, wasn't running from the Law ? it was the media.

Williams had just appeared at Lismore Local Court charged with the theft of artworks, initially valued at $67 million, from Limpinwood in February last year.

The art theft, initially said to have included a previously unknown work by French impressionist Paul Cezanne, grabbed international media interest, which only intensified as owner John Opit and art experts argued over the authenticity of the works.

Police have now sided with experts, telling media last month they believed the paintings were fake and worth only a fraction of Mr Opit's estimate.

In charge sheets lodged at the court, they allege Williams also stole a wide mix of other items from Mr Opit's home, ranging from a cast-iron book press to a jar of empty matchboxes.

At yesterday's appearance, Magistrate Nick Reimer agreed to loosen a ban on travelling to NSW that forms part of Williams' bail agreement, allowing him to visit the State for court appearances and meetings with lawyers.

The appearance over, Williams and barrister Paul Smart turned their minds to escape. Smiling and waving at media outside, Williams scouted possible escape routes before running into a game of cat-and-mouse with the press.

Williams hid behind columns on the verandah before walking down to the footpath and bolting across the street to his waiting car. The fun begins again at his next appearance at Lismore Local Court on June 7.



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