The fate of a £32million Van Gogh masterpiece stolen from a Cairo museum remained a mystery last night.
The 12in-square painting of red and yellow flowers was cut from its frame at the Mahmoud Khalil Museum on Saturday. Within hours, Egyptian ministers announced that it had been recovered in the hands of an Italian couple arrested at Cairo airport.
But yesterday embarrassed officials backtracked and said the picture was still missing.
It was not clear if the Italians were still being held. Earlier, it was reported that the young couple, among only ten people to visit the museum on Saturday, had aroused suspicion after they were seen visiting a toilet and then rapidly leaving the premises.
The work – known both as Poppy Flowers and Vase And Flowers – has been stolen from the same museum before, also in mysterious circumstances.
Thieves took the canvas in 1978, and authorities recovered it two years later at an undisclosed location in Kuwait .
Officials never reported whether any thieves were charged or tried or whether a ‘ransom’ was paid for the painting.
Now museum chiefs are facing an inquiry into how it could have been stolen again, amid claims that security was lax. Egypt’s top prosecutor, Abdel Meguid Mahmud, said all the alarms at the museum and 36 out of 43 security cameras had been broken for some time.
The picture is believed to have been painted in 1887, three years before Van Gogh’s suicide at the age of 37.
|The fate of a £32million Van Gogh masterpiece stolen from a |
Cairo museum remained a mystery last night.