Dutch Thief Accused of Stealing Art Pieces by Vincent Van Gogh and Fran Hals

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Nils M. is accused of stealing this painting “Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer" by Frans Hals.Getty Images

Nils M., who is accused of breaking into two separate museums, maintains his innocence. The paintings have not been recovered.

A Dutch thief is accused of stealing two prized works of art by Vincent van Gogh and Fran Hals in separate heists, and authorities say they tied the man to the crimes by DNA evidence.

The thief, who has solely been identified as Nils M., due to Dutch privacy laws, is being accused of stealing the Van Gogh painting, “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring,” from 1884, as it was being used as part of temporary exhibition art the Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands last year, The New York Times reported.

Authorities said footage from the robbery showed a man with a sledgehammer smashing two glass doors to get inside and then leaving with the painting. The frame was left behind in a parking lot, and prosecutors said it had traces of Nils. M’s DNA on it.

The second theft, which prosecutors said took place a few months later in August 2020, involved Hals’painting “Two Laughing Boys with a Mug of Beer,” from the 17th century.

The painting was stolen from the Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, and authorities said the backdoor of the museum was broken open to get inside. An orange tension strap was also found tied to a flag outside of the museum and police said footage showed two men driving away on a scooter, one with what looked like a small painting in his hand, The New York Times reported.

Authorities have not identified the other man, but prosecutors said Nils M’s DNA was found on the strap.

“Breaking into a museum and taking paintings by artists who are world famous, pieces that belong to our cultural heritage, that are irreplaceable,” was “totally unacceptable,” the prosecutor in the case, Gabriëlle Hoppenbrouwers, said in court earlier this month, according to the indictment.

The van Gogh painting had an insured value of about $2.9 million, and the Hals, which had been stolen twice before and recovered, was valued between $11.7 million and $17.6 million. Neither have been found.

Nils M. was arrested in April in connection with the crimes, but he maintains his innocence. Authorities said 10,000 ecstasy pills and a firearm along with ammunition were found in his home at the time of his arrest as well.

“He said that he didn’t steal those paintings and he had nothing to do with it,” Nils M.’s lawyer, Renske van Zanden, said in a public interview.

Van Zanden also said the DNA evidence from Laren was inconclusive, in part because his wasn’t the only DNA found on the picture frame and that Nils. M is taller than the person seen on DNA footage. Nils M. did admit to using tension straps for his job but claimed he had no idea how one would have ended up outside the museum. 

Nils. M is expected in court on Friday.

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