Bray People

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Collection targeted four times

Russborough House and its world famous Beit collection of fine art have been targeted four times over the last 28 years by raiders with very different motives.

1974

The saga began on April 26 1974, when an IRA gang which included British heiress, Rose Dugdalestole 19 paintings.

They were estimated at the time to be worth £8 million, and included a Vermeer, Franz Hals and Goya. Both Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit and their staff were bound and gagged during the raid.

A ransom of half a million pounds was demanded and the gang demanded the release of the Price sisters from a British jail. The ransom was not paid.

All the paintings were later recovered in a cottage and a rented car in Glandore in County Cork. They were returned to Russborough House. The raiders were caught and jailed.

1986

On May 21 1986 the house was hit again. A gang of Dublin criminals headed up by The General, Martin Cahill, stole 18 works including Vermeer's Lady Writing a Letter, The Portrait of Dona Antonia Zarate by Goya and Metsu's Young Man Writing a Letter.

The gang was unable to sell the paintings as they were too well known. Sixteen were recovered having been tracked down in Belguim, Turkey and England. Earlier this year a Rubens taken by Cahill was recovered by gardai in a house in north Dublin. Just two of those paintings, a pair of Venetian scenes by Guardi are still missing.

2001

On June 26 of last year three armed raiders wearing balaclavas drove up to the house at 12.40pm. The rammed the door with a four wheel drive jeep and seized two works - Madame Baccelli by Thomas Gainsborough and Bernardo Belotto's View of Florence - worth £3 million.

The gang attempted to set fire to the jeep but failed leaving vital clues behind them. The fled the area and made a failed bid to hijack a car at gunpoint. The motorist refused to hand over the vehicle and they were forced to continue on foot.

The two paintings were recovered by gardai a fortnight ago. Detectives from the arts and antiques section of the national bureau of criminal investigation retrieved the paintings in south Dublin.

It is believed that the heist was masterminded by a close associate of The General and involved gang members from Crumlin, Tallaght and Ballyfermot.

The detectives were satisfied that the paintings were stolen for unscrupulous art collectors overseas. They are confident that several suspects will be charged in relation to the robbery.

2002

On Sunday week, September 29, five pictures were taken during a dawn raid on the house. The gang once again used a jeep to smash their way into the house but this time they breached a downstairs window at the back of the house.

Through the broken window they got into the Saloon - the room from which they snatched the five masterpieces.

The hoard included two by Rubens, one by Adrien Van Ostade, a Wilem Van Dervelde the younger and a Jacob Van Ruisdael.

They entered the house just after 6am. The alarm sounded in the local garda station but the raiders had made their getaway.


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