Brutes with iPhones steal art, antiques and beat vicar

"The Grand Canal and the Church of the Salute" by Canaletto, 1730, Museum of Fine Arts, HoustonOn January 3rd, two vicious brutes broke into a retired vicar’s house in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, beat him up and tied him to a chair, then stole the most valuable pieces from his collection of paintings and antique furniture as selected by a knowledgeable accomplice via iPhone. Before leaving they destroyed the rest of the art and antiques with a hatchet.

Authorities are keeping mum on the details while the investigation is ongoing — the vicar’s name is not being released because he is terrified of drawing attention to himself — but we know that among the stolen pieces are paintings by 18th-century Venetian master Canaletto. The total value of the stolen works is well into the millions of dollars. No word on what the rest of the vicar’s collection was worth before they took a hatchet to it, but he’s been an avid collector and a fixture at auctions for decades.

A source said: “This robbery was well-planned and ruthlessly executed. They had possibly been watching the house for months, watching the major art sales where the victim was well known.[…]

The Irish Daily Mirror understands the two men worked with a third party to assist them with the robbery. A source said: “They were on the phone to someone outside the house and from what I understand they used a hi-tech phone to show the third party which pieces were in the house.

They wanted to know which were most valuable because those are the ones that were stolen. There was a lot taken, an awful lot.

“This was a horrendous experience for the victim and it was carefully planned and executed.”

The thieves also stole the victim’s contact books which had personal information about a number of other high end art collectors, including scions of the Guinness family and Edward Haughey, Baron Ballyedmond, the richest man in Northern Ireland. All the people in the book have been alerted to the theft and advised to increase their security.

Two similar thefts took place in the same county two years ago. The Police Service of Northern Ireland and Ireland’s national police force, An Garda Siochana, are investigating any connection between the crimes.