Canada’s Largest Art Theft
Canada’s largest art theft occurred on Labor Day in 1972 when three armed bandits broke into the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts through a skylight under repair and stole 18 paintings and 37 objects of decorative arts and jewellery. All but one of the stolen paintings – a small Jan Breughel painting, The Elder – remain missing today.
The museum director subsequently received an envelope containing snapshots of the paintings as ‘proof of life’ and a ransom demand which was later negotiated down to $250,000. The museum demanded additional proof that the thieves had possession of the paintings and were led to a locker at Montreal’s Central Station and discovered the Brueghel painting. After more futile communication with the thieves, and at least one failed sting operation, the trail grew cold. To this day, the paintings and suspects have never been found.