In April of this year, Dutch police apprehended a 58 year old man on suspicion of having carried out several prominent art thefts in the Netherlands within the previous year. Specifically, the man was accused of having stolen The Parsonage Garden by Vincent van Gogh and Two Laughing Boys by Frans Hals; the latter painting has been stolen a total of three times over the course of the last couple of decades. Now, the New York Times is reporting that crucial DNA evidence was utilized in order to pin down the thief in question, whose name is Nils M. (last name withheld due to Dutch privacy laws).
According to the Times, M. wasn’t crafty enough to disguise the fact that he’d left behind DNA evidence on a strap and picture frame within the museums he’d stolen from, which led investigators right to him. M. also has a history of committing art-related crimes: previously, the thief served five years in prison for stealing a silver 17th century church vessel from a museum in 2012. A panel of judges is anticipated to submit a ruling in the case of the more recent thefts on Friday of this week.
“Breaking into a museum and taking paintings by artists who are world famous, pieces that belong to our cultural heritage, that are irreplaceable,” is “totally unacceptable,” prosecutor Gabriëlle Hoppenbrouwers said in a statement. Several Dutch art thefts have taken place in recent years. The Singer Laren museum near Amsterdam was robbed of the Van Gogh in March of 2020.
Security camera footage showed a masked man very deliberately smashing the glass shielding the museum’s entrance and making away with the painting, leading many to suspect that the theft was a coordinated mission conducted by someone who knew exactly what they were doing.