Brutal robbery of Munch's masterpieces
The alarm at the Munch Museum went off at 11:10 a.m. Sunday as shocked visitors witnessed as two masked and armed men walked off with two of the most well-known pictures by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944).
Threatened the guards
Munch expert Knut Forsberg estimates the value of the two world famous pictures to be close to NOK 650 million (USD 96.8 million).
«Two men dressed in dark clothes threatened the guards with handguns,» said Kjell Pedersen, at the crime department at Oslo police district, to TV 2 Nettavisen. «They stole «Madonna» and «The Scream». They took them off the wall and walked off.»
A male guard at the museum was forced by the robbers to lay down on the floor. Witnesses stated that they experienced the robbers as very threatening, but no one was physically injured. A female guard was sent to the hospital for treatment of shock.
Between 50 and 70 persons were at the Munch museum when the robbery occurred. The two robbers entered the museum either through the main entrance or through the café entrance.
At least one of the two men carried a handgun. One of the robbers had a pair of large pliers, which was used to cut down the paintings. It triggered a silent alarm that the police responded to.
Minutes after the alarm went off, the two man ran out the front door and got into a waiting Audi. The police claim three persons participated in the actual robbery, but several may be involved.
Asked the public for help
Large police forces were Sunday afternoon looking for the robbers and have asked the public for help.
«We have informed all police districts, border stations and airports,» said Hilde Walsø, head of operations at Oslo police district, to TV 2 Nettavisen. «All units have been asked to look out for a black Audi A6 which is between 5 and 10 years old.»
The police assume the get-away car has been located as a car matching the description was located at Sinsen, north of the museum, Sunday afternoon.
«We have technical leads from the museum and in the car which we are working on right now,» said Kjell Pedersen, police inspector at the Oslo police district. «At the same time, we are conducting tactical investigation all over the city.»
Pedersen did not want to speculated whether or not any particular group are behind the robbery, or if the robbers are from Norwegian or international group, but he stated that one of the robbers spoke Norwegian.
Daniel Flores, 29, was with his brother Manuel Flores, 28, and his girlfriend in the room where «the Scream» was displayed, when the robbery occurred.
«We heard yelling and screaming,» Flores explained. «Then a man came into the room. We didnt see that he had a gun, but he was wearing a hood. In about 15 to 30 seconds he took down two paintings and disappeared. People ran and screamed. We tried to get out of the emergency exit because we thought we were in danger, but the door was locked.»
Marketa Cajova, another visitor at the museum, said to NTB, that panic erupted among the visitors.
«Many of the visitors at the Munch museum got panic and thought they were terrorists, but it soon became clear that it was the paintings they were after,» said Cajova, who was visiting the museum with her husband when the robbery occurred.
«Madonna» is an oil painting painted on canvas, painted between 1893 and 1894.
«The Scream» is a pastel painting where several different technique have been used on carton, painted in 1893.
«The picture is very fragile because its painted on carton,» said Jorun Christoffersen, head of information at the museum, to TV 2 Nettavisen. «We are very worried that something will happen to the picture. As long as the picture remains in a frame it will be fine, but if the frame is removed, we do not know what may happen.»
TV 2 Nettavisen has received reports that a broken frame, which may very will be the frame that protected The Scream,» have been located.
Another version of «The Scream» was stolen in 1994 from the National Gallery in Oslo, which was later returned. There are a total of three original versions of the famous picture.
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