November 18, 2020

Richard Abath leaned back in his chair as his eyes scanned the cameras early in the morning on March 18, 1990. On one screen, a red hatchback pulled beside the museum’s side entrance, and two police officers got out and rang the buzzer. They explained there was a disturbance call and that they needed to check it out.


Remembering the St. Patrick’s Day parades and the false fire alarm that went off a half hour ago, Abath broke the rules and permitted the officers into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which hosts more that 15,000 pieces of art that are all of great value.


“You look familiar,” said one of the officers when he saw Abath, who’s had some trouble with the law in the past. “I think we have a warrant out on you. Come out here and show us some identification.”


Abath complied, left the watch desk, and followed orders to face the wall with legs apart. He soon realized he wasn’t searched for weapons and that he let two art thieves into the museum. He was then lead into the basement where he was left handcuffed and tied with duck tape. The second security guard for the night eventually found himself in the same predicament.


The thieves left the guards in the basement and ventured to the second floor. They went their separate ways, collecting valuable pieces of art until an alarm went off. While the alarm was only to alert the night guards, one of the robbers smashed the alarm to avoid further disruptions.

Photo of a frame left after the thieves stolen the art.
Photo of a frame left after the thieves stole the art. Photo taken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Five works were stolen from the Dutch Room, six from the Short Gallery, and two from the Blue Room, totaling to 13. This seems like a small number from the 15,000+ pieces of art the museum hosts, but the stolen artwork amounts to over $500 million. They stole notable pieces from artists like Rembrandt and Degas (all of which could be looked up here).


At 2:45 a.m., the thieves destroyed security video tapes of them being there, took two trips to deliver the art to their vehicle, then drove away, leaving the night guards tied up until 8:15 a.m. when they were asked to give their perspective of what happened that night.


Be sure to come back next week to discuss who may be responsible for the works of art that were stolen!

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About the Contributor
Erin Brody is a Writing and Publishing senior from West Homestead and is the Editor-in-Chief/Director of Operations of The SIREN Media Group. She particularly enjoys investigative journalism and crime... writing and researching it, of course.

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