South Africa art stolen from Pretoria museum recovered

Image source, AP
Image caption,
This 1931 painting Fishing Boats by Irma Stern was one of those recovered

Four of the five paintings that were stolen from a museum in the South African capital, Pretoria, have been found at a cemetery, police have said.

A tip-off led police to the cemetery in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, 1,100km (700 miles away), a spokesman said.

Three gunmen stole the paintings, worth $2m (£1.25m), on Sunday from the Pretoria Art Museum.

Police said they have not yet made any arrests.

Museum shut

They are still searching for an oil painting by local artist Gerard Sekoto, Brig Marinda Mills said.

Four other paintings by South African artists, including the world-renowned Irma Stern, were recovered from under a bench at the cemetery, she added.

They include Stern's Fishing Boats, Maggie Laubser's Cat and Petunias, JH Pierneef's Eland and Bird and Hugo Naude's Hottentot Chief.

Checks were being done to make sure the recovered paintings were the originals, Brig Mills said, the South African Press Association reports.

"Verification of the art must still be done, but from a layman's view it appears to be the same pieces that were taken in Pretoria," she is quoted as saying.

Brig Mills said the paintings were discovered by a member of the police dog unit at a small cemetery behind a church.

"Police forensic and crime scene experts are still combing the area," she is quoted as saying.

The theft led to the closure of the museum, as officials looked at improving its security.

The robbers paid to enter the museum on Sunday, before holding up staff and escaping with the paintings.

They left behind another Stern oil painting, of musicians, because it did not fit in their getaway car, AFP news agency reports.

The video surveillance cameras at the museum had stopped working on Thursday, Pretoria city spokesman Pieter de Necker is quoted by AFP as saying.

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