Stolen Picasso, Matisse & Monets 'burned in stove' in Romania

Probably burned: Pablo Picasso's "Tête d'Arlequin", 1971

Remains in the ashes reinforce the suspicion: valuable paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and others stolen in the art museum in Rotterdam were burned in Romania.

A Romanian museum analysed ashes found in a stove and remains of pigments and nails of the stolen paintings have been found, dating back to the time of creation of the art works, the director of the National History Museum, Ernest Oberländer-Tarnoveanu, told dpa. It was the biggest art theft in more than a decade in the Netherlands. The stolen works have an estimated value of 50 to 100 millions of euros if they were sold at auction.

Paul Gauguin: Femme devant une fenetre ouverte, 1888

Paul Gauguin

Olga Dogaru, the mother of Radu Dogaru, one of three Romanian suspects charged with stealing the paintings from Rotterdam's Kunsthal gallery told investigators she was scared for her son after he was arrested in January and buried the art in an abandoned house and then in a cemetery in the village of Caracliu. She said she later dug them up and burned them in February after police began searching the village for the stolen works.

Thieves broke into the museum in Rotterdam on 16 October through a rear emergency exit, took the paintings from the wall and fled, all within a few minutes. Police who arrived less than five minutes after the break-in triggered an alarm found nothing but empty spaces on the walls, broken hanging wires and tyre tracks in grass behind the gallery.

Claude Monet's "Charing Cross Bridge", 1901

The stolen paintings were: Picasso's 1971 Harlequin Head; Monet's 1901 Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London; Matisse's 1919 Reading Girl in White and Yellow; Paul Gauguin's 1898 Girl in Front of Open Window; Meyer de Haan's Self-Portrait, around 1890; and Lucian Freud's 2002 work Woman With Eyes Closed.

Radu Dogaru, the alleged ringleader, remains in custody along with two other suspects as investigators seek the paintings and other evidence.

The stolen paintings came from the private Triton Foundation, a collection of avant-garde art put together by multimillionaire Willem Cordia, an investor and businessman, and his wife, Marijke Cordia-Van der Laan. Cordia died in 2011.

Securing of evidence in October 2012 at the Kunsthalle in Rotterdam. photo: Robin Utrecht/ANP/epa