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Traces of torched paintings found in Dutch heist probe

AFP-JIJI

Romanian experts sifting through ashes that could contain charred debris of masterpieces stolen from a Dutch museum have identified fragments typical of burnt oil paintings, the museum carrying out the analysis said Thursday.

In a bid to destroy evidence, the mother of Romanian heist suspect Radu Doragu has reportedly admitted to torching the seven stolen masterpieces, including works by Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet, in her stove.

“We have discovered special, very expensive pigments which have no longer been in use since the second half of the 20th century,” Ernest Oberlaender-Tarnoveanu, director of the National Museum of Romanian History, said.

“Investigators will have to determine this,” he said. But the analysis did reveal “residue of one or several paintings, with traces of blue, yellow and red paint . . . and nails,” he added.

He said that if the works, valued at more than €100 million ($130 million), had actually been torched, it “would be a monstrous crime, a barbaric act . . . and a crime against humanity.”

Doragu’s mother told investigators that after the arrest of her son in January she “was very scared because I knew that what had happened was very serious.”

“I placed the suitcase containing the paintings in the stove. I put in some logs, slippers and rubber shoes and waited until they had completely burned,” she was quoted as saying.