Another art attack on Russborough
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.