A would-be heist to steal a Pieter Bruegel painting in a Northern Italy church was going completely right. Until it went completely wrong.
It was a calm night in the small, sleepy town of Castelnuovo Magra in Northern Italy, when a group of thieves executed the perfect crime they had thought of for weeks. A church, a car, a hammer, and The Crucifixion by Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel The Younger. Get in, get the painting, get out. It was a success. They did get in. They did get out. And after breaking the case with a hammer, the thieves ran off with a Brueghel in their hands. They got into a Peugeot car and drove into freedom... with a worthless painting in the back of their car. How, though?Little did the robbers know that Castelnuovo Magra's finest had received a tip-off months prior to when the robbery took place. They had gone into the church by keeping the secret for some time and then switched The Crucifixion painting with a copy of the same painting, unbeknownst to the robbers and, except for a handful of people, to the entire town of about 8,500 residents.
Daniele Montebello, the mayor of the small town was in on it, too, and together with a few members, here and there, of the congregation of the church of Santa Maria Maddalena in Castelnuovo Magra. Even more interested, the members of the congregation noticed the picture looked out of place, but rather than spilling the beans, decided to keep to themselves.
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Even Montebello had to stick with the story for a while, until the entire stint was revealed. Then, he told his version of the story; prior to the would-be heist, rumors had been circulating about a possible robbery of the painting. But not on his watch. He told the police to do something about it. And that was when the police put the painting in a safe place, replaced it with a copy, and installed security cameras all over the place. Montebello later told reporters: “I thank the police, but also some of the churchgoers, who noticed that the painting on display wasn’t the original but kept up the secret.”
Further reading: How A Game Of Monopoly Was Behind The Greatest Train Robbery
Not today, thieves, not today.
Further reading: 6 Crime Documentaries That'll Awaken Your Paranoid Tendencies
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