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The Gardner Museum Heist

On the night of March 18th, 1990, two men dressed like Boston police officers knocked on the security entrance to the Isabella Gardner Memorial Museum. The security staff let them in despite policy stating that nobody was to be let in after hours. The two men, although weaponless, were able to subdue the security staff and during the next 90 minutes went through the museum stealing various priceless paintings, drawings, and artifacts. The stolen goods included three paintings by Rembrandt, multiple Degas sketches, a bronze eagle from atop a flag, and a Manet painting. However, the thieves were oddly sloppy in some of their work - one of the paintings was cut roughly from the frame, drastically lowering its value, and the most valuable painting in the museum, Titian's "The Rape of Europa", was left untouched entirely.

In the years since, the museum has hunted both for the thieves and for the missing art, with few clues. Early investigations focused on known criminal groups, such as the Boston mob, as it was believed that no attempt so grand could succeed without the blessing of one of these groups. The Irish Republican Army was also briefly suspected, having a history of art theft. However, these trails turned out cold.

Several individuals have claimed to have knowledge of the paintings and their locations, but none have divulged any leads that lead to their retrieval. One antiques dealer claimed that he knew where the paintings were, but that he was afraid for his life. He went into hiding not long after making the claim, making him a dead end as well. The two last hopes are two art thieves, Myles Connor and his companion, William Youngworth.

Connor was behind bars at the time of the theft, but nonetheless managed to become a prominent figure in the investigations. While he himself says that there's no chance of him having planned it, given that the most valuable paintings were left untouched, he claims that another associate, Bobby Donati, had shown interest in some of the lower-value pieces that were taken and that the signs of his presence were all over the case. When Donati died, Connor then claimed that the locations of the pieces had been left to him.

While Connor has made offers to reveal the information many times, he refuses to do so without the promise of his release from jail. However, in 1997, Youngworth called a reporter from the Boston Herald and offered to show him one of the Rembrandt pieces. The reporter says that the piece looked genuine, and he was allowed to take paint samples from it. Youngworth asked for the release of Connor and immunity for the both of them. However, testing of the paint samples proved the painting to be a fake, and Youngworth has refused to send any of the other paintings as a sign of good faith, making his claims doubtable.

For the moment, the trail seems to have gone cold, with no more immediate leads, but the art community still is watching with open eyes for any signs of the missing paintings. Until they are found, their frames will hang, empty, in the museum, a silent testament to the magnitude of the crime that was committed.


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