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How gang's attempt to upstage their rivals ended in failure

GARDAI who recovered the ?18.5m haul of Beit paintings from the attic of a house in a city suburb believe they were stolen by a crime gang who wanted to succeed where their main rivals had failed a year earlier.

The five paintings were taken from the home of Lady Beit, Russborough House, outside Blessington, Co Wicklow, in September 2002 - the fourth art theft from the mansion since 1974.

They were stolen within days of the recovery of two other paintings which had been taken from Russborough in June, 2001.

Gardai from the national bureau of criminal investigation were quickly on the trail of a south Dublin gang, mainly based in the Crumlin area.

The heist was thought to have been a "copycat" crime carried out by thieves who believed they could learn from the mistakes made by another Crumlin gang who had failed to dispose of their haul.

The two gangs operated independently but both were linked to a major Dublin drugs baron, who had been a former close associate of the murdered gangland boss, Martin Cahill, known as The General.

The haul found in the Clondalkin, Dublin, home of Thomas and Noleen Douglas consisted of two works by Rubens, Venus Supplicating Jupiter and Portrait of a Dominican Monk, as well as The Cornfield, The Adoration of the Shepherd, and The Calm Sea.

A senior garda officer said afterwards: "They were all in remarkably good condition.

"One of them suffered a few minor scratches on the lacquering on the painting but this can be restored."

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