An­other art at­tack on Russborough

June 2001

Bray People - - NEWS -

Hopes are high that the au­da­cious raiders who car­ried out the day­light heist on Russborough House will be caught.

The masked rob­bers es­caped with two paint­ings worth £3 mil­lion. But they left vi­tal clues be­hind.

The jeep they used to ran the front door of the 18th cen­tury house failed to ig­nite de­spite their best ef­forts. They poured a gal­lon of petrol over the Mit­subishi Pa­jero and threw a match into it but flames did not take hold.

Garda foren­sic ex­perts have been go­ing over the jeep with a fine-toothed comb look­ing for clues which could lead to their iden­tity.

The three masked men drove up to Russborough House at 12.40 p.m. on Tues­day. They un­loaded a tim­ber ramp from the back of their jeep be­fore driv­ing right up the front steps and ram­ming the front door.

One of the raiders was armed with what ap­peared to be a hand­gun.

The well-or­gan­ised gang made their way di­rectly to the mu­sic room, pass­ing three other rooms en route. They re­moved two oil paint­ings. One, a Gains­bor­ough en­ti­tled Madame Bac­celli, is val­ued at £2 mil­lion. The other, View of Florence Look­ing To­wards the Ponte Vec­chio by Bernardo Bel­lotto, is worth £1 mil­lion.

The alarm was set off as soon as the paint­ings were taken from the wall.

The gar­daí were alerted and two units that had been pa­trol­ing in Hol­ly­wood and Bal­ly­more Eus­tace ar­rived at Russborough in min­utes.

But the gang had al­ready es­caped in a light blue Golf Gti. Once on the N81, they at­tempted to hi­jack a car of a lo­cal man by forc­ing him off the road. De­spite be­ing threat­ened with a gun and a shot be­ing fired, he re­fused to give up his car.

The last that was seen of the raiders was at the car park at nearby Rus­sell­stown where they aban­doned the car and dis­ap­peared. Gar­daí do not yet know whether they left the scene on foot or if they had an­other ve­hi­cle stashed there.

A mas­sive garda hunt was launched straight away. Check­points were set up all around west Wick­low and Kil­dare. An Air Corps Alou­ette he­li­copter, on loan to the garda air sup­port unit, was put into ac­tion over the Bless­ing­ton lakes. But there was no sign of the raiders.

Gar­daí be­lieve they had planned the heist well. Ac­cord­ing to Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Sean Feely who is head­ing up the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ‘ they knew what they were look­ing for in the house’.

One garda source even sug­gested the gang may have gone on one of the many guided tours of the his­toric house. There was very lit­tle com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the rob­bers and any­one in the house. The raid ap­pears to have been timed to co­in­cide with the end of a guided tour of the house which meant there were very few wit­nesses.

How­ever, the chief su­per­in­ten­dent said the raiders would find it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to off­load the paint­ings un­less they were stolen to or­der and there has been some doubt cast on this idea.

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