THE UNSOLVED GARDNER MYSTERY HEIST: WHERE IS THE ART?
November 26, 2020
Last week, we talked about what happened the night of the heist at the Gardner Museum and how there were two suspects that were never identified. An even bigger question is what happened to the 13 pieces of art that were stolen?
Despite this mystery being nearly 31 years old, none of the art has been recovered. The FBI had several hot leads on the case, but all of them ultimately lead to nowhere. However, the FBI is still active in the investigation of the heist, offering a $5 million reward to anyone who can help them safely return the artwork.
With that being said, we’re going to explore some of the theories and trails the FBI investigated:
1. The mafia/gangs
There’s a few theories on how organized crime plays into this. Some say a specific gang or mafia family did it while others say it’s a single gangster behind it.
James “Whitey” Bulger was a mob boss that was rivals with the mafia. He had a vast criminal network but also secretly worked for the FBI as an informant. The FBI took him off the list of suspects because of the lack of evidence linking him to the crime, though it’s suspected he knows who did it. Bulger and his right hand man did their own investigation, however he was going to use the success as a way to skip jail time. He eventually faced prison for multiple crimes, eleven of them being for murder charges.
Mafia caporegime (head of a crew in the mafia; capo for short) Vincent Ferrara had an associate visit him two times a day in prison and confessed to being the one who stole the artwork. The associate said he’ll wait till the FBI will be less strict on him for the heist, then he’ll make a deal that in order for the artwork to be handed back safely, the FBI had to free Ferrara. This never happened due to the associate being murdered a year later, though the associate was still in contact with his friend and notable art thief, Myles Connor.
2. Myles Connor and William Youngsworth
William Youngsworth was an antiques dealer and tipped off a reporter of where Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee could possibly be. The reporter made headlines by claiming he saw one of the stolen pieces when he actually witnessed a replica. This wasn’t discovered right away, which did Youngworth some favors since he wanted three main things: discharged of crimes he was currently being charged with, the $5 million reward and for his criminal friend, Myles Connor, to be freed from prison.
Connor was a known art thief and was suspected to be a part of the heist, despite being incarcerated. It’s speculated that he was clever enough to orchestrate the caper if he really wanted to, though nothing came of this. Since then, he has given up his life of crime and wrote a book called The Art of the Heist, detailing different crimes he organized and the rumors surrounding the Gardner heist.
Youngsworth was asked to provide evidence that the painting he knew of was authentic, and he handed over fragments he claimed were a part of the Rembrant. Once tested, it was proved he was lying, though it’s believed he may know something because the fragments were dated back to the 17th century from the Netherlands. Vermeer, whose art was stolen from the museum, did his most famous works during that time and place, but Youngsworth refuses to be a part of any interviews, making the theory he knows something more mysterious.
3. A museum employee
We talked last week about how security guard Richard Abath let the two burglars in while museum rules state he’s not allowed to let anyone, including law enforcement, into the building unless instructed to do so. It’s suspected he may have been a part of the heist for that and other reasons.
First of all, Abath isn’t a reliable man. He admitted to often arriving at work drunk or high and to having a criminal record. Furthermore, motion sensors throughout the museum tell a slightly different story from the one he told: Abath claims he never left the watch desk, meanwhile it was sensed he opened the same entrance he let the burglars into minutes before their arrival. The sensors also picked up that the thieves never went on the first floor while Abath did, which should be noted since a painting from that floor was stolen. There’s also video evidence of him speaking with a man he let into the museum one night before the heist, showing him around before letting him out. Abath refuses to speak on the matter.
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