Art theft spawned squad


ARTWORKS stolen from a remote Limpinwood property near Murwillumbah in February, 2004, were considered so valuable by police investigators they set up Strike Force Euro.

Giving evidence in the Lismore District Court yesterday, Snr Const Gary Kennedy, of the Lismore Crime Scene Unit, said the strike force considered the theft a major crime because of the estimated value of one of the paintings stolen being more than $50 million.

"That was in reference to one painting by Cezanne, Boy in a High Chair," he said.

Snr Const Kennedy was giving evidence at the trial of Gold Coast man Brett Michael Williams, who is accused of stealing artworks and other items from the property.

He agreed information on the value of the painting was provided by its owner, John Opit.

Other stolen artworks later recovered from a duplex garage at Robina in June 2004 included paintings by McGregor, Percy White, JMW Turner, American artist Winslow Homer, Arthur Streeton and John Glover.

Also stolen was a cast iron book press, two Persian carpets, an electric guitar, two cedar cigar boxes containing cigars, and a 1927 propelling pencil made of silver with a garnet.

A green jacket was also recovered from the Robina garage.

The court heard DNA analysis was carried out on the stolen artworks, the jacket, scissors found wedged in a gun cabinet door at Mr Opit's home, and on a door handle at his home.

The findings of the analyses were tabled in court, finding evidence linking Williams to the jacket only.

Snr Const Kennedy agreed no DNA evidence could be found linking Williams to the Limpinwood property. He also agreed no fingerprints belonging to Williams were found at the Limpinwood address.

Snr Const Kennedy also agreed that a French door into an internal storeroom was forcibly removed during the robbery.

A theory that the house was ransacked during the robbery was contradicted by Snr Const Kennedy.

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