November 26, 2019 10:11:43
Thieves have smashed display cases and grabbed rare jewels from an eastern German museum.
- At least three sets of 18th century jewellery were stolen
- The jewellery collection was founded by Augustus the Strong, former King of Poland
- Thieves smashed cases to get in and were able to get away in minutes
In a lightning raid on one of Europe’s greatest collections of treasures, thieves forced their way into Dresden’s Green Vault Museum — one of the world’s oldest museums holding treasures from around the world — and got away with at least three sets of early 18th-century Baroque jewellery.
The haul included intricate diamond and ruby brooches, buttons, buckles and other items, museum staff said.
Dresden police and museum officials said they were still trying to establish exactly how much was stolen.
Local media reported the haul was worth up to 1 billion euros ($1.6 billion).
“Two suspects can be seen on the recordings, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t other accomplices,” said Volker Lange of Dresden’s police force.
Gone in five minutes
The alarm sounded just before 5:00am on Monday (local time) with officers arriving five minutes later only to find the burglars had already escaped.
Dresden police chief Joerg Kubiessa said the thieves fled in a getaway car and managed to elude immediate attempts to find them in the surrounding area and on a nearby highway.
Police later confirmed that an Audi A6 matching the description of the getaway car was found burned in an underground parking lot in Dresden.
Authorities said it appeared the thieves had broken open only one glass case, which contained the three jewellery sets.
“We are talking here of objects of immeasurable cultural value,” Museum Director Dirk Syndram said.
It would be impossible to sell such unique, identifiable items on the open market, Director of Museums Marion Ackermann said.
Ms Ackermann said the cultural value of the jewels far outstripped any material value and it would be “a terrible thing” if the jewellery was broken or melted down.
The state’s interior minister, Roland Woeller, said the theft was a “bitter day for the cultural heritage of Saxony”.
Investigators suspect that a fire at an electrical junction box near the museum, which took out the streetlights at the time of the robbery, was linked to the crime.
The outage affected lights in front of a window through which the thieves gained entrance, somehow getting through bars and safety glass to reach the Jewel Room.
Security footage released by police shows two hooded figures entering the room, then smashing open the glass case with an axe.
Police said they had established a special investigation team, code-named Epaulette, comprising 20 specialist officers to solve the case.
Mr Woeller pledged that investigators would “do everything in [their] power not only to bring the cultural treasures back, but to capture the perpetrators”.
Augustus the strong
The collection was founded in 1723 by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony and later King of Poland, who commissioned many of the treasures and jewels as part of his rivalry with France’s King Louis XIV.
The museum today contains about 4,000 objects of gold, precious stones and other materials on display in the historic palace.
One of its best known treasures — the 41-carat Dresden “Green Diamond” — was on loan to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art at the time of the break-in.
Other exhibits in Dresden include a table-sized sculpture of an Indian royal court, made out of gold, silver, enamel, precious stones and pearls.
Another is a 1701 golden coffee service by court jeweller Johann Melchior Dinglinger, decorated with lounging cherubs.
The treasures of the Green Vault survived Allied bombing raids in World War II, only to be carted off as war booty by the Soviet Union.
They were returned to Dresden, the historic capital of the state of Saxony, in 1958.
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November 26, 2019 03:11:15
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