Stolen Van Gogh safe after man just returned it


A Dutch detective recovered a stolen Vincent van Gogh painting on Monday after a man contacted him out of the blue to return it.

However, the events that led to the unexpected recovery of the Van Gogh sound like something out of a movie.

The expensive painting was stolen from a museum years ago during a daring robbery, but even after someone was caught for the theft, it was never recovered.

The Dutch police confirmed on Tuesday that detective Arthur Brand found the 1884 painting called “Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring” in a blue IKEA bag. This painting is worth between €3 million and €6 million (between R60 million and R121 million).

A man contacted Brand about two weeks before to return the artwork. The man apparently has nothing to do with the original robbery, but did not want to reveal his name for security reasons.

Brand says it took extensive negotiation, but the man finally agreed to meet him to hand over the artwork.

“We recovered the painting in close cooperation with the Dutch police,” confirmed Brand.

The man handed the painting to Brand in a blue IKEA bag. It was covered with bubble wrap and placed in a pillow case.

Footage provided by Brand shows him unpacking the contents of the bag in his living room. He was clearly surprised when he realized what it was.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

“It was one of the best moments in my life.”

Richard Bronswijk of the Dutch police’s crime unit said this find ensured that the case was finally solved after more than three years.

“It is definitely the real work of art, there is no doubt about it,” said Bronswijk.

Painting a ‘massive headache’

The painting was looted from the Singer Laren Museum on March 30, 2020. Footage of the incident shows a man breaking a glass door at the museum in the middle of the night, before running away with the painting under his arm.

In April 2021, the police arrested a man for the incident. He was later found guilty of theft and sentenced to eight years in prison.

He was also later found guilty of a separate robbery during which he stole a painting by Frans Hals called “Two Laughing Boys”.

“A few months later, I heard from a source in the crime world who bought the particular Van Gogh,” says Brand.

This man, who was identified by the Dutch police as Peter Roy K., was at that stage behind bars for the large-scale import and export of drugs. Roy wanted to use the Van Gogh painting as collateral to negotiate for a lighter sentence. However, no agreement was made to get the painting back and authorities still did not know where the Van Gogh was kept – until now.

“The man (who contacted me) told me he wanted to return the Van Gogh because it caused a massive headache” because it could not be used to negotiate, Brand said.

The painting has already been returned to the director of the Groninger Museum, from where it was originally loaned to the Singer Laren Museum.

Frans Hals’ “Two Laughing Boys” is still free, but Brand says he hopes that the painting will also be returned soon.

Brand gained notoriety for his remarkable recovery of stolen art, including the bronze sculptures titled “Hitler’s Horses”, a Pablo Picasso painting and a ring that once belonged to Oscar Wilde.