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Tuesday 27 June 2017

I saw accused put fist through €10m Monet painting, trial told

Monet's €10m Argenteuil Basin With A Single Sailboat. Photo: PA
Monet's €10m Argenteuil Basin With A Single Sailboat. Photo: PA

A TOURIST who witnessed a €10m Claude Monet painting being damaged said he saw the accused man "lift his fist and put it through the painting".

Andrew Shannon (48), of Willans Way, Ongar, Dublin 15, denies causing criminal damage to the oil painting at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, on June 29, 2012.

The gilt-framed painting, entitled Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat, dates from about 1874 and is Ireland's only work in public collection by the celebrated French impressionist. Two tourists who travelled from New Zealand to give evidence told the jury at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that they were standing next to the Monet painting when the incident happened.

Michael Williams told Kerida Naidoo BL, prosecuting, that he felt the damage had been "quite deliberate".

"Out of the side of my eye I saw this man lift his fist and put it through the painting. To me, it was clearly what he wanted to do," he said.

Mr Williams said he manoeuvred the accused into the middle of the room "so he couldn't do any more damage".

He agreed that he was an artlover and had been appalled by the damage that had been done.

Mr Williams' wife, Dr Toni Ashton, told the jury that Mr Shannon "seemed to appear out of nowhere" and that she saw his fist "like a hammer".

She said the accused told them he had a heart condition and asked for some water.

Earlier, the jury saw CCTV footage of the incident which was played over at least eight times during the course of the day.

It shows Mr Shannon putting his right arm out in front of him and seeming to fall onto the painting before he is grabbed by a bystander.

Peter Judge, a security attendant at the National Gallery, said he had been patrolling several rooms housing works by the great masters when he heard "a large bang" from Room 10 followed by visitors screaming and shouting.

Brendan Grehan SC, defending, said his client has a history of heart problems, but accepts that the damage to the painting was caused by his hand.

The trial continues today and is due to last until Friday.

hnews@herald.ie

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