Stolen artworks worth millions found in PE church yard

15:40 (GMT+2) Tue, 13 Nov 2012

Port Elizabeth police say they have recovered four of the high value paintings that had been stolen during a robbery at the Pretoria Art Museum.

Police spokesperson, captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg, says the paintings were found under a bench in the yard of a Dutch Reformed Church in the suburb of Sundridge Park on Tuesday.

"Our dog unit of Port Elizabeth received information from an informer which led them to the Dutch Reformed Church in Sundridge Park. At the back of the property they found four paintings and it seems to be similar to the paintings that were stolen in the Gauteng area," she said.

Janse van Rensburg says its not known where the fifth stolen painting is.

On Sunday three men pretending to be art students and a lecturer asked museum staff to view specific paintings after which they tied up the staff members and made off with
Maggie Laubser's Cat and Petunias (1936); Hugo Naude's Hottentot chief; JH Pierneef's Eland and bird (1961); Gerard Sekoto's Street Scene; and Irma Stern's Fishing boats (1931).

A sixth painting was left outside the art gallery presumably because it could not fit into their getaway car.

On Monday the Tshwane Municipality announced the temporary closure of the Pretoria Art Museum to 20 November.

Mayoral spokesperson Pieter de Necker said "the art museum has taken precautionary steps by removing other valuable pieces until the police have completed their investigation."

The total value of the stolen paintings were put at more than R17m.