Maastricht Tefaf raid: Brazen daylight attack targets art fair

By Paul Kirby
BBC News

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Display cases after the raid at Tefaf
Image caption,
A picture taken after the raid showed the damage caused to the display cases

Two men have been arrested after a gang of robbers smashed glass display cases at a European fine art fair in the Dutch city of Maastricht.

In a brazen raid on the Tefaf art fair, one of the men was filmed smashing cases with a sledgehammer while accomplices kept visitors away.

One visitor picked up a large vase in an apparent attempt to halt the robbers before quickly putting it back.

Two suspects from Belgium were quickly arrested a short distance away.

Although most of the displays in that section of the Maastricht exhibition featured fine art, some display cases exhibited jewels including diamonds.

One of the gang appeared to brandish a firearm while another attacked the display cases and could be seen grabbing items and putting them in a bag. The faces of all four were uncovered, although they all wore caps and blazers.

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Witnesses described a sense of panic as people fled the fair, held for the first time in more than two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, one man can be seen sitting through the entire raid on a nearby bench with his legs folded, looking on as the gang fled past him.

Visitor Jos Stassen told Dutch public broadcaster NOS that it was extraordinary that the gang had been able to walk in with the sledgehammer and firearm unnoticed: "The broken display case is far away from the entrance and there is security, by the various emergency exits too."

Police confirmed jewellery had been stolen. Within minutes of the robbery they closed the main A2 motorway running south through Maastricht towards the Belgian border, and stopped two suspects in their 20s in a grey car near a tunnel.

In a statement the organisers said security teams had worked quickly to disarm one offender and that police were on the site within minutes. "Nobody was injured during the incident. The fair's stringent safety procedures were followed and all visitors were successfully evacuated," they said.

While the raid was clearly shocking for bystanders, the gang were ridiculed on social media for their clothing and supposed amateurism. Their flat caps prompted some to describe the four as a poor imitation of characters from BBC gangster drama Peaky Blinders, which is set in the early 1900s.

Local TV said cases belonging to a London-based luxury jeweller had been screened off after the raid but the company was unavailable for comment.

This is not the first time that the Tefaf art fair has been targeted in Maastricht. In 2010 a pink sapphire platinum ring owned by another London jeweller was reportedly stolen.

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