'Born Burglar' Details How He Pulled Off Van Gogh Heist

Octave Durham spills all the details on 2002 theft in new documentary
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2017 8:25 AM CDT
Thief Behind Major Van Gogh Heist Spills All in Documentary
In this Sept. 30 2016, file photo, the recovered painting "View of the Sea at Scheveningen," by Vincent Van Gogh, is shown during a press conference in Naples, Italy.   (Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP, file)

"I'm a born burglar," says Octave Durham, per the New York Times, which looks at a new documentary about Durham's notorious theft of two Vincent Van Gogh paintings. Set to be broadcast Tuesday on Dutch TV, the 45-minute special by filmmaker Vincent Verweij gets the inside scoop on the 2002 heist Durham says took less than four minutes and nabbed him two works the Times deems "of inestimable value": Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen and View of the Sea at Scheveningen. Durham, who was convicted for the burglary in 2004 and spent just over two years in prison, says he passed cops in his getaway car and brags that he'd pulled off "more spectacular jobs than this"—after years of denying he had any involvement in the theft, per Versopolis.com.

In one reveal that may insult art lovers everywhere, Durham notes he didn't run off with the Van Goghs because of any particular love for the great master, or for art in general: He did it because it was an opportunity for a big get. "That's the eye of a burglar," he says. Per NLTimes.com, Durham told a Dutch paper over the weekend he'd wanted to steal two other Van Gogh paintings—Sunflowers and The Potato Eaters—but one was too big to slip out and the other was under heavy security, so he and partner Henk Bieslijn settled on the other two. The Times notes the Van Gogh Museum is still "furious" with Durham, who didn't get paid for the film, and refused to help Verweij. The filmmaker defends his choice of cinematic subject, noting, "You never see documentaries or articles about art theft from the perspective of the thief." (The Van Gogh Museum was pretty stoked when the paintings were recovered.)

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