Olympic Museum robbery: a professional heist for stuff that was not in the museum…?

The story is everywhere – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, NGOs, blogs… – and this blog is getting even more hits for the objects’ descriptions and photographs than it is for the account of their robbery. But with all of the investigation and scrutiny, the evidence is confusing; and the state is confused.

The police are getting nowhere with the case. Their remaining hopes are:

  1. to trace the car (and thus learn the escape route; then find the car unburned, and recover DNA…);
  2. to get a tip-off; or
  3. to identify the robbers by the records of phone calls to the museum in the week leading up to the robbery.

The police are anonymously briefing that it was a ‘professional heist‘; but the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is anonymously briefing precisely that it was an amateur ‘hold-up rather than a professional museum heist’.

The police argue that it was a professional heist because the thieves were looking for artefacts that were ‘not being shown‘ (but were somewhere to be found).

The Ministry of Culture argues that it was an amateur hold-up for the very same reason, because the thieves were looking for artefacts that were ‘not part of the display‘ and ‘[did] not exist‘ (anywhere in the museum). I tend to agree with the Ministry.

But the police’s claims raise even more basic questions (which the mainstream media do not appear to have asked). The robbery started at 7.34; and the guard rang the police just after 7.50; then the police established roadblocks ‘in Olympia and neighbouring regions‘. So, between 7.34 and 7.51 7.41 – in the space of about 17 minutes [seven minutes (on CCTV)] – the thieves evidently managed to:

07.34-07.35? enter the museum, and subdue and tie up the guard;
07.35-07.36? assault and interrogate the guard;
07.36-07.39? smash through the reinforced glass of 6 display cases across 5 rooms, carefully gathering and bagging 77 artefacts without damage (‘when they lost control and started to smash whatever they found in front of them in order finally to grab the seventy-seven pieces, it appears they caused damage to some of the objects [όταν έχασαν τον έλεγχο και άρχισαν να σπάνε ό,τι έβρισκαν μπροστά τους για να αρπάξουν τελικά τα εβδομήντα επτά κομμάτια, φαίνεται να προκάλεσαν ζημιές σε κάποια από τα αντικείμενα]’; but it is not clear whether that refers to the stolen objects or the remaining ones);
07.39-07.41? search for more material, and leave.(1)

Afterwards, they left the museum on foot; then (since the guard did not report hearing a car, I assume, when they were far enough away that the car was out of earshot of the guard), they met a getaway driver and escaped.

How long did it take for the local and regional roadblocks to be established? Did the robbers make it out of the western Peleponnese before the roadblocks were established? Or did they get stopped at the roadblocks, but somehow make their way through? Or were the police only able to block the major roads, thus leaving the robbers free to disappear along the minor roads?

Why do the police and the Culture Ministry have tragicomically contrary interpretations of the crime? Is the Ministry trying to make the criminals look less dangerous than they are, in order for Greek cultural heritage to look less endangered than it is? Or are the police trying to make the criminals look more effective than they are, in order for the police to look less ineffective than they are?

And, if it was a professional heist feeding the international art market, why did the Greek authorities publish their announcement and artefact descriptions only in Greek? Why did I, an unemployed archaeologist at the other end of the continent, have to translate them into English? Either the robbers were incompetent, or the Greek authorities are negligent.

Update (22nd February 2012): I asked the Greek police and the (former) culture minister why I had to translate their appeal for information (at 9.05am, 22nd February 2012); but I have not received an explanation (as of 5.45pm, 22nd February 2012).

I also notified the police that two of their appeal photographs were duplicates of other artefacts’ photos (via their hotline address, financialpolice@hellenicpolice.gr, at 12.45pm, 21st February 2012); again, I have not received a reply, or seen a correction (as of 5.45pm, 22nd February 2012).

Update (23rd February 2012): Prime Minister Lucas Papademos rejected Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos’s resignation.

1: my original guess at the timing of the robbery was…

07.34-07.35? enter the museum;
07.35-07.36? subdue and tie up the guard;
07.36-07.37? assault and interrogate the guard;
07.37-07.42? smash through the reinforced glass of 6 display cases across 5 rooms, carefully gathering and bagging 77 artefacts without damage (‘when they lost control and started to smash whatever they found in front of them in order finally to grab the seventy-seven pieces, it appears they caused damage to some of the objects [όταν έχασαν τον έλεγχο και άρχισαν να σπάνε ό,τι έβρισκαν μπροστά τους για να αρπάξουν τελικά τα εβδομήντα επτά κομμάτια, φαίνεται να προκάλεσαν ζημιές σε κάποια από τα αντικείμενα]’; but it is not clear whether that refers to the stolen objects or the remaining ones);
07.42-07.45? search for more material;
07.45-07.46? leave the museum on foot; and,
07.46-07.47? when far enough away that the car was out of earshot of the guard, meet a getaway driver and escape.

4 Trackbacks to “Olympic Museum robbery: a professional heist for stuff that was not in the museum…?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: