Police ask for help in finding stolen museum pieces

800_assyrian_relief_1202151.jpgAn Assyrian bas-relief of a head of a guard is shown in this undated handout photo. A hefty reward is being offered for the return of two small archaeological pieces stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

An Assyrian bas-relief of a head of a guard is shown in this undated handout photo. A hefty reward is being offered for the return of two small archaeological pieces stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

Updated: Wed Feb. 15 2012 8:32:00 PM

CTVNews.ca

The public is being asked to help in the hunt for two archaeological pieces that were stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

The objects — a Persian bas-relief dating to the 5th century and a Roman Empire, marble head — are together worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But Concordia’s director of special projects and cultural affairs, Clarence Epstein, said the pieces’ real value is not in dollars and cents, but rather their connection to Quebec history.

“Both pieces are remarkable because they have ownership histories connected to Montreal families,” Epstein told CTV News Montreal.

The pieces were stolen in October 2011 but news of the theft wasn’t released to the public until recently for the purpose of protecting a police investigation. However, a substantial reward is being offered for the return of the objects.

Security cameras captured footage of the alleged suspect stealing the objects, which were anchored firmly but not encased in anything. A $10,000 reward is also being offered to anyone that can identify the man in the video.

Since the theft, the museum has tightened security slightly but staff said they believe this was an isolated incident.

“We have 38,000 objects in the collection; 4,000 are on the floor. So over 150 years only two big thefts. The history is quite good,” said communication director for the museum, Danielle Champagne.

Mark Dalrymple, an art loss adjuster for Tyler & Co. who has been hired to work on the case, said he believes they are dealing with what he calls a common criminal: someone who steals objects because they’re valuable.

But with news of the theft all over the web it seems to reason that the piece won’t be sold publicly without raising a lot of questions.

“Of course there will always be dealers of all descriptions who may buy property without asking any questions because that is common in the criminal world,” said Dalrymple.

If the pieces aren’t recovered it will be a great loss, Champagne said, and not just to the museum.

“It’s a loss for humanity we can say because it was archeological objects,” said Champagne.

With a report from CTV News Montreal’s Cindy Sherwin.

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