Wicklow People

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fourth robbery in 30 years Art heist from Russborough

The priceless art collection at stately Russborough House was the target of thieves for a fourth time, last weekend, with raiders using a jeep to smash their way into the property and make off with a haul of art treasures.

The raid happened shortly before dawn on Sunday morning, with the thieves driving their vehicle through a rear window and into the house.

They took less than five minutes to grab five works by the painter Rubens from the drawing room of the home, and had sped away from the scene while the elderly caretaker at the house was raising the alarm.

One of the five 'priceless' works which were taken had previously been stolen by the notorious Dublin crime boss The General, but was subsequently recovered.

And the latest heist at Russborough came just days after two paintings were recovered from the last haul snatched from the house - in June of last year.

Detectives from the arts and antiques section of the national bureau of criminal investigation recovered the two paintings in south Dublin.

There has been widespread speculation that the latest heist was masterminded by a major Dublin criminal and former close associate of the General, Martin Cahill who was responsible from a 1986 theft from the house.

And indeed it has been suggested that the latest robbery may have been an act of revenge for the recovery of the earlier paintings - by Gainsborough and Belotto two days earlier, although Gardai involved in this case say that this is 'pure speculation'.

The other theory is that it was a copycat burglary inspired by publicity surrounding the previous thefts.

Gardai believe that whoever was involved in the theft know the layout of the house and the surrounding countryside as well as the value of the contents.

The gang drove across the fields from a back road leading from Blessington to Ballymore Eustace in a four wheel drive Mitsubishi.

The thieves mounted the steps at the back of the house and smashed a window leading to a room known as the salon. They snatched the paintings from the walls as the alarm sounded and fled using the same route.

The alarm alerted gardai in local stations to which the system was liked. The noise woke an elderly caretaker who also contacted the gardai.

The gang abandoned the jeep on the side of the Ballymore Eustace road, and switched to a waiting vehicle. They were on their way back to Dublin before the gardai reached the house.

This time two paintings by Rubens were stolen, including Portrait of a Dominican Monk, which was only recovered after its previous theft, in 1993.

Also missing is The Cornfield by Jacob van Ruisdael.

Gardai have appealed for witnesses who may have seen anything suspicious in the area, or on the main Blessington to Dublin road at around 6.00am on Sunday morning last.

They are also investigating reports that a car was seen travelling at speeds of around 100 mph through Blessington, that morning.