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Woman charged after theft of two Beit paintings

A DUBLIN woman appeared in court yesterday in connection with the Garda investigation into the ?2.5m theft of two paintings from the Beit art collection at Russborough House in Blessington, Co Wicklow last year.

The theft was carried out by a south Dublin crime gang in June last year but the paintings were recovered by the Garda national bureau of criminal investigation (NBCI) last October.

In the latest development, Rosemary Quinn (45) was arrested by detectives yesterday afternoon at The Maudlins in Naas.

Quinn, of St Aengus Park, Tallaght, later appeared at Naas district court on a charge of handling stolen property on June 26, 2001 - the date of the Beit theft. She was released on her own bail and an independent surety and is due to appear at Naas court again next Monday.

The two paintings, Portrait of Madame Bacelli, by Thomas Gainsborough, and View of Florence looking towards Ponte Vechio, together valued at ?2.5m, were taken in an audacious daylight heist from the home of Lady Beit.

In a hurried attempt to escape with the paintings, the gang failed to set fire to a stolen four-wheel drive van used to ram the front doors.

They poured a gallon of petrol over the vehicle and hurled a match into it but it did not ignite. Items in the vehicle including a cardboard box and rubber gloves were taken away for fingerprint checks.

Gardai are satisfied that the theft was carried out by a southside gang with members in Crumlin, Tallaght and Ballyfermot and masterminded by a major armed robber and drug trafficker from Crumlin, known in the underworld as The Viper.

Some of the gang were alleged to have been involved in a series of bank robberies in the Midlands late last year.

The robberies ended after a foiled raid in Abbeyleix, Co Laois, last December, when a member of the garda national surveillance unit, Det Sgt John Eiffe, was shot dead accidentally by a ricochet from a shotgun blast fired by a detective from the emergency response unit.

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At Portlaoise Court yesterday, three Dublin men were jailed for 10 years for conspiring to rob the AIB bank at Abbeyleix on December 7.

Following inquiries in the capital's gangland, detectives from the arts and antiques section of the NBCI retrieved the two paintings in south Dublin. They were not in frames but were in good condition.

It was the third heist from Russborough House since 1974. Gardai worked on the theory that the paintings had been stolen to be sold to an unscrupulous art collector overseas.


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