Scottish Art Dealer Suspects Fiendish Forces Behind Edinburgh Art Robbery

Scottish Art Dealer Suspects Fiendish Forces Behind Edinburgh Art Robbery
Artist Peter Howson with one of his well-known paintings, "Women of America"
(Courtesy McTear's Auctioneers)

Back in May, two paintings by the artist Peter Howson were pilfered from the Art Mart, the storefront of Edinburgh art dealer Douglas Fyfe. The thieves were easily caught. However, after a hearing yesterday in the Scottish burg, a new wrinkle has been added to the case: It's now believed that the crime was not merely a haphazard break-in, but a job for hire by someone after the paintings.  

“I haven’t heard of anything like this at all in Edinburgh or Scotland even,” Fyfe told the Edinburgh Evening News, recounting the crime. On May 4, after a neighbor saw that the front door to the gallery was wide open and called the police, the police spotted two men with paintings on a nearby street. After a brief search, a few Howson paintings were found discarded on a side road, and George Mountford, 27, and Gary McKenzie, 28, were apprehended and placed under arrest. Gloves, a crow bar, pliers, hammer and bolt cutters were subsequently found in a white van belonging to Mountford, who has since pleaded guilty to stealing £16,000 ($25,280) worth of paintings. McKenzie has admitted to acting as his accomplice.

What makes Fyfe think that there was someone else masterminding the action, leading the Evening News to go so far as to suggest that that a “private collector” could be behind the theft? The carefully planned nature of the crime, for one thing. “They were organised and the paintings were by Peter Howson, the well-known Scottish painter, so I think they were done to order,” he explained to the Evening News (Howson's work is collected by the likes of David BowieMadonna, and Mick Jagger, and he was knighted in 2009.) “One painting was hidden behind some of the others and couldn’t have been seen from outside, so I think someone had been in before to check out the place.”