Police detain suspect for Olympia museum robbery

Kathimerini has just reported that police have ‘detained’ a ‘foreign national’ on suspicion of involvement in the armed robbery of the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games.

Update (2nd March 2012): apparently, the perpetrators ‘remain at large’; so, the police did not have any forensic evidence (either fingerprints or DNA, either at or near the scene of the crime); and the guard did not identify the suspect detained by the police (if he was a suspect rather than an informant).

I have left the following blog post as it was after the 25th February update.

Suspect detained

The police think he may have been a member of ‘a group that raided jewellery shops in the area’; and that ‘this gang may have been involved in the museum heist as well’; so they do not appear to have any material evidence (yet).(1)

They hope the guard will identify him; but given he was wearing a camouflage uniform and a ski mask, presumably she would have to identify him by his eyes; or maybe his voice?

Albanian armed robbers of jewellers?

Update (24th February 2012): there have been reports that the suspect is a ‘former convict of Albanian origin‘. (Hat tip, Archaeology News Network.) He is suspected of ‘two other armed robberies [άλλες δύο ένοπλες ληστείες]’ – one in Olympia, one in Krestena.

However, according to other sources, ‘the reports that state that the police brought in an Albanian suspect in relation with the robbery are officially denied [Τα δημοσιεύματα που αναφέρουν ότι η αστυνομία προσήγαγε Αλβανό σεσημασμένο που σχετίζεται με τη ληστεία, επισήμως διαψεύδονται]’. So, the Albanian may have been an informant.

At the time of the arrest, Kathimerini reported that the police ‘ha[d]n’t been able to recover anything leading to the suspects’, despite having collected and analysed forensic evidence from the crime scene; but that the police continued ‘scouring the area for evidence‘. Still, apparently there are some clues to the identities of the perpetrators.

Circumstantial evidence

Skai explained how,

In both cases [of jewellery shop robberies] the perpetrators used sledgehammers, threatened passers-by, shot into the air with Kalashnikovs to intimidate [people] and managed to escape by minor roads, which they knew in every detail. As with the bandits of the museum of Ancient Olympia.(2)

The robbers did threaten and assault the museum guard; but none of the other English and Greek-language reports mentioned or implied that the museum robbers threatened passers-by or fired their Kalashnikov(s). There are similarities in the methods of the crimes. Nonetheless, Imerisia says that the police say that the jewellery robbers’ work ‘does not resemble the robbery at the museum [δεν ταιριάζει με την κλοπή στο Μουσείο]’.

In addition, police found ‘two cups with the remains of coffee and sheets from cheese pies [δύο κυπελάκια με υπολείμματα καφέ και χαρτιά από τυρόπιτες]’ in a stream next to the museum. The robbers’ muddy footprints suggest they came and went via the stream, so the police ‘collected [the cups and sheets] carefully in order for them to be used [συνέλλεξαν προσεκτικά προκειμένου να αξιοποιηθούν]’ (for fingerprint/DNA analysis).

Cloth, duct tape, fingerprints?

More critically, there is a more significant find (εύρημα), apparently conclusive forensic evidence. According to the police,

Around the sledgehammers, they [the robbers] had stuck pieces of cloth with tape, in order to reduce the noise of the strikes on the display cases.

When the robbers immobilised the guard and started to smash the display cases, one of the pieces of fabric fell off in the museum and stayed there…. They [the police] hope that when they [the robbers] stuck the fabric to the sledgehammers, they were not wearing gloves.(3)

[Perhaps] luckily for the police, according to Ethnikos Kiryx, they have been able to identify the suspect by ‘the fingerprints that were found on the cloth and the duct tape [τα αποτυπώματα που βρέθηκαν στο ύφασμα και την μονωτική ταινία]’.

Update (25th February 2012): however, according to Imerisia, it is only probable (Πιθανότατα) that they have identified the prints found in the museum. It seems that the guard did not identify the suspect, because all the police are willing to say is that he ‘fits the body type [ταιριάζει ο σωματότυπός τους]’, that being “tall”.

(Ethnikos Kiryx also noted they had ‘identified footprints from three different people [εντόπισε πατημασιές από τρία διαφορετικά άτομα]’ – the two robbers and the getaway driver.) (Hat tip, Ellas.)

Were the looters incompetent, or was the collector?

The prosecutors share my perception that this robbery was not done by ‘experienced looters who knew what to take from the galleries of the museum [έμπειρους αρχαιοκάπηλους που γνώριζαν τι θα πάρουν από τις αίθουσες του μουσείου]’.

It is unclear whether the police suspect ‘common criminals [κοινούς κακοποιούς]’ (working on their own); or whether they believe that, because ‘museums are not a natural target [τα μουσεία δεν είναι ο “φυσιολογικός” στόχος]’ for them, they ‘acted on behalf of a collector [έδρασαν για λογαριασμό κάποιου συλλέκτη]’.

Ethnikos Kiryx, too, counsels that it is still possible that the two robbers were ‘hired by a collector, in order to grab the gold wreath and the collection of stamps [μισθώθηκε από συλλέκτη, προκειμένου να αρπάξει δηλαδή το χρυσό στεφάνι και τη σειρά γραμματοσήμων].’

In that case, though, the collector would have been incompetent, unaware of where gold wreaths were found and displayed in Greece, and what was in the Olympic museum. The collector would have sent the thieves to the wrong museum for stamps, and to the wrong region for gold wreaths (which are generally found in northern Greece).

Greek criminal mastermind

Police believe that the ‘mastermind [εγκέφαλος]’ of the robbery was a ‘Greek criminal [Έλληνα[ς] ποινικό[ς]]’. Counting him as the third criminal would suggest he was the getaway driver, but another police report implied that the second robber was Greek: ‘we are almost certain that it is a Greek criminal, while his accomplice is of Albanian origin [Είμαστε σχεδόν σίγουροι ότι πρόκειται για Ελληνα κακοποιό, ενώ ο συνεργός του είναι αλβανικής καταγωγής]’.


I do not know how I have been behind the news, as I have been searching regularly and following archaeologists and journalists. But, for example, according to Google, between the 17th and the 24th of February 2012, there was only one relevant result for Ολυμπία+ληστεία+Αλβανός (which must be wrong). I think it may be missing updates of articles at the same web address; I have no idea. Anyway, I have belatedly set up Google alerts for Olympia+museum and Olympia+robbery; I will set up some Greek-language ones as well.


1: according to police, they reviewed ‘seven minutes of CCTV footage’ (which may have been the footage of the suspect; the entire raid may have taken more than seven minutes). But again, they could not identify him by the CCTV footage, so I am not confident that the guard will be able to. Indeed, one source concluded that ‘the result [of the CCTV analysis] was… nothing [το αποτέλεσμα ήταν… τίποτα]’; ‘they did not take off their masks even for a second [δεν έβγαλαν την κουκούλα τους ούτε για ένα λεπτό]’.

2: ‘Και στις δύο περιπτώσεις οι δράστες χρησιμοποίησαν βαριοπούλες, απείλησαν περαστικούς, πυροβόλησαν στον αέρα για εκφοβισμό με καλάσνικοφ και κατάφεραν να διαφύγουν από μη κεντρικούς δρόμους, τους οποίους γνώριζαν με κάθε λεπτομέρεια. Όπως και με τους ληστές του μουσείου της Αρχαίας Ολυμπίας.’

3: ‘Γύρω από τις βαριοπούλες, είχαν κολλήσει με ταινία κομμάτια υφάσματος, για να μειώνεται ο θόρυβος από τα χτυπήματα στις προθήκες. Όταν οι ληστές ακινητοποίησαν τη φύλακα και άρχισαν να σπάνε τις προθήκες, ένα από τα κομμάτια του υφάσματος έπεσε στο μουσείο και έμεινε εκεί…. Ελπίζουν ότι όταν κόλλησαν το ύφασμα στις βαριοπούλες, δεν φορούσαν γάντια.’

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