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Authorities Release New Footage Of Night Before Gardner Art Heist

A screen grab from surveillance footage released Thursday of the night before the 1990 art heist at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Courtesy U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts via YouTube)
A screen grab from surveillance footage released Thursday of the night before the 1990 art heist at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. (Courtesy U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts via YouTube)
This article is more than 5 years old.

Twenty-five years after the infamous Gardner art museum heist, there's newly released footage — from the night before the robbery of 13 masterpieces  -- and a new call for the public's assistance.

Law enforcement officials on Thursday released security footage and are asking the public's help identifying "an unauthorized visitor" in the video.

"That person entered the [Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum] through the same door as the thieves in the middle of the night, 24 hours before the theft," the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.

The footage, according to the statement, shows "an automobile pull up next to a rear entrance of the Museum. The car matches the general description of a vehicle that was reported to have been parked outside the Museum moments prior to the theft on March 18, 1990.

"The video also shows an unidentified man exiting the automobile and then being allowed inside the Museum, against Museum policy, by a security guard," the statement added.

The newly released video appears to put renewed focus on Rick Abath, the Gardner security guard who let in the thieves the night of the robbery — though Thursday's statement did not identify the security guard who let in the "unauthorized visitor" the night before, or say that the security guard the night before the theft was the same as the night of the heist.

On the night of the robbery, the thieves were dressed as police officers and later handcuffed Abath and another guard.

"[T]hat night two cops rang the doorbell. They had hats, badges, they looked like cops, and I let them in," Abath told StoryCorps this year.

In this 2010 photo, the empty frame from which thieves cut Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" remains on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The painting was one of 13 works stolen from the museum in 1990. (Josh Reynolds/AP)
In this 2010 photo, the empty frame from which thieves cut Rembrandt's "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" remains on display at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The painting was one of 13 works stolen from the museum in 1990. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

Though the video is low resolution, law enforcement officials are hoping the public can assist them in identifying the man or the vehicle.

Anyone with information regarding the video should call the FBI at 617-742-5533 or the Isabella Gardner Museum at 617-278-5114.

"With the public’s help, we may be able to develop new information that could lead to the recovery of these invaluable works of art," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in the statement.

Authorities in 2013 — 23 years to the day after the heist — announced that they had identified the thieves, but they didn't release names because they said they were still looking for the artworks.

The statute of limitations on the Gardner heist ran out years ago, but officials — and the museum — are still seeking the masterpieces' return. The combined value of the works stolen is at least $500 million.

A $5 million reward has been offered by the museum "for information that leads directly to the recovery of all of the stolen items in good condition."

In Thursday's statement, officials didn't say why they hadn't released the footage before. Ortiz did say, however, that "[o]ver many months we have engaged in an exhaustive re-examination of the original evidence."

Video from the night of the robbery was seized by the thieves. "They did not take the video footage from the night before," the statement said.

This article was originally published on August 06, 2015.

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