Saturday 3 December 2016

'I found €200k stolen paintings stuffed in bushes', reveals man who was gardening

28 Jul 2015; Denis Russell at the gorse bushes in his field where he found stolen paintings. Donard, Co. Wicklow. Picture: Caroline Quinn
28 Jul 2015; Denis Russell at the gorse bushes in his field where he found stolen paintings. Donard, Co. Wicklow. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Camera phone photo of Denis Russell with the stolen paintings he found in his field in Donard, Co. Wicklow.
Camera phone photo of Denis Russell with the stolen paintings he found in his field in Donard, Co. Wicklow.
Handout photo issued by the Irish Garda of a landscape with cottage by Paul Henry which was one of three paintings found by a man cutting his hedge.

A man who was cutting bushes has spoken of his shock at finding three stolen artworks worth almost €200,000.

The paintings had been stolen in a burglary from a house near Baltinglass, Co Wicklow, last October.

However, they were all found yesterday at a location only a couple of kilometres from the house that was raided in Donard.

Denis Russell (59), from Donard, Co Wicklow, stumbled across the paintings while trimming bushes outside his house.

Shock

He said he saw "an unusual looking plastic bag" in the ditch and "got a bit of a shock" when he made a closer inspection and pulled the artworks from the bag.

Speaking to the Herald last night, Mr Russell said the paintings "looked like they came straight out of a gallery".

The recovered paintings are 'Portrait of a Lady' by Sir John Lavery, which is worth in the region of €100,000; 'Landscape with Cottage' by Paul Henry, valued at €50,000; and 'The Fern in the Area' by Jack B Yeats, which is worth €50,000.

"Straight away I recognised JB Yeats, so I knew they were of some significance - but I never made the connection with the missing paintings," Mr Russell said.

His wife Bernie Whelan (53) is an art enthusiast and when her husband alerted her, she immediately recognised the paintings as the stolen works.

"She gasped when she saw me with them," Mr Russell said.

The couple then took a photo of themselves with the famous paintings, before calling gardai so that they could be returned to their rightful owner.

"My wife Bernie was very excited to see them and so we took a picture because we thought it's not every day that you get that close with paintings like these," he said.

Mr Russell said he and his wife have "a mutual respect and love of art" and want to see them reunited with their original owner.

"I want to see them safe in some way," he said.

Gardai believe that the paintings have been in the Wicklow ditch since the burglary on October 22, last year.

The art heist at a private home occurred while the occupants were away on holiday. No other items were taken in the robbery, leading gardai to believe that the criminals knew the valuable art was in the house.

The artworks were being examined at garda headquarters last night but it is understood that the paintings are in relatively good condition.

Gardai have not identified the gang involved and have made no arrests in the case.

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