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Stolen art works 'crushed by rubbish truck'

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Stolen art works 'crushed by rubbish truck'
Detail from Pastoral, 1905, by Henri Matisse
10:12 CEST+02:00

Five paintings worth €100 million ($135 million) including works by Picasso, Matisse and Modigliano, could have been tossed into a rubbish bin and crushed according to one of the suspects.

The theft in May 2010 from the Museum of Modern Art opposite the Eiffel Tower stunned the art world with its audacity. If true, news of the paintings' demise will cause dismay.

The five works stolen were Dove with Green Peas by Pablo Picasso, Pastoral by Henri Matisse, Olive Tree near l'Estaque by Georges Braque, Woman with Fan by Amedeo Modigliani and Still Life with Candlestick by Fernand Léger. 

The paintings were stolen after an ingenious thief managed to climb through a window, avoiding thirty security cameras and ineffectual guards. 

After a year long search, the Serious Crime Brigade has now placed three men under official investigation, the alleged thief and two accomplices.

The alleged thief, a 43-year-old Serb known as Vrejan T, allegedly planned to steal a painting by Fernand Léger.

Three days before the theft the Serb, nicknamed "Spiderman", planned his entrance by  loosening screws in a window. He then returned in the early hours of May 19th and climbed in.

Surprised that no burglar alarm sounded he then spent an hour wandering around the museum, helping himself to some of his favourite pieces. "He thought the Modigliani was the most beautiful of all," said one source close to the inquiry, according to Sunday newspaper the Journal du Dimanche.

When police caught up with the alleged thief one of the accomplices, a 34-year-old watch repairer called Jonathan B, said he "panicked and destroyed the canvasses before throwing them into a rubbish bin."

Police cannot confirm that the paintings have really been destroyed. 

"This theft was nonsensical," said one investigator. "There was never any chance that paintings this well-known could have been sold on."

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