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A Lesson in Art Appreciation

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Art evokes different feelings in different people, but apparently this one gave a few people an intense urge to steal it

My article last week (“How Not To Steal A Steel Bridge”) talked about how stupid most criminals are. This week’s article really drives that point home.

Metal theft of all kinds have been on a steady increase in the last few years all over the world. Metal theft rises proportionately to the values of different metals. Fire hydrants, x-rays (for the silver traces in them), bronze and copper graveyard markers, beer kegs and even entire bridges have become fair game for metal thieves.

In December 2005, a world-famous two-tonne bronze sculpture by Henry Moore, valued at nearly $5 million, was stolen from the 72 acre estate of the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire, England. Somehow, the thieves managed to physically remove this huge and unwieldy sculpture from its home there, hoist it onto the back of a pick-up truck, and drive it away without anyone noticing.

A global search for the criminals ensued. It was of course originally assumed that it had been stolen by art thieves. This probably resulted in a lot of wasted time chasing down leads that brought investigators no closer to solving the crime. It wasn’t until 4 years later, in May 2009, that they were finally able to piece together the sculpture’s final days.

According to chief inspector Jon Humphries, of Hertfordshire police, it is believed the sculpture was intentionally damaged beyond repair shortly after it was removed from its premises on the back of the flat-bed truck, from where it was moved through a Dagenham scrap dealer in December 2005 and on to another Essex scrapyard. Shortly after, it was shipped abroad, possibly to Rotterdam and then further east, circumventing an order to Interpol to monitor all ports for the distinctive figure. The sculpture’s remains finally made their way to China, where the metal was used for electrical components.

It is believed that the sculpture, which was valued at $4.8 million when still intact, was melted down and sold for no more than $2400, once again proving that no matter how enterprising or innovative they may appear, at the end of the day, your average criminal is a complete idiot – and a broke idiot, at that. It never ceases to amaze me how hard some people are willing to work for an “ill-gotten gain”. If they would just apply themselves to a productive, legal activity instead, they’d be bound to end up with more for themselves – at far less cost to others.

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