While trying to improve my Google alerts (particularly the Greek- and Turkish-language ones), I found yet another moment of false hope in the Olympia museum robbery case. I haven’t recorded them here in order to make the police look bad: false leads and dead ends are inevitable parts of police investigations; and this is a success that the Greek police deserve to celebrate (if for no other reason than out of relief that it ‘has proven its effectiveness‘ (ή ότι έχει ‘μία απόδειξη της αποτελεσματικότητας της’)).(1)
However, there were several, significant “false leads” (or misleadings of the public), and these need to be documented.
As well as the Albanian connection repeatedly alleged and reinforced through detention/arrest immediately after the robbery in February, the responsibility of a Greek antiquities gang was suspected in March, the discovery of the artefacts in Switzerland was awaited in April, the capture of a Moriarty-like mastermind in Greece was expected in May, and the recovery of the artefacts from Britain was anticipated immediately before the London 2012 Olympic Games in July.
On the 8th of October, Patras police reportedly arrested a 45-year-old northern Epirote in Ovrya for the illicit possession of 38 antiquities, which was ‘likely to be connected to the great robbery at the Archaeological Museum of Ancient Olympia [είναι πιθανόν να συνδέεται με τη μεγάλη κλοπή στο Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο της Αρχαίας Ολυμπίας]’; but that likelihood was an unlikelihood within the hour. In the end, he was a 58-year-old with 37 antiquities, none of them from Olympia.
Did the police see the Olympia museum thieves everywhere they looked; did they assume that every looter/dealer was involved in the Olympian job? Did they release false information to lull the thieves into a false sense of security? Or did they release false information to reassure the public?
1: As an aside to this aside, nick_arch noted:
Arrest was expected after the DNA traces, but what is considered the biggest su[c]cess is the full recovery [of the artefacts].
[The] Greek police faces many problems, especially related to the fiscal difficulties the country is going through. A pretty consistent infrastructure though exists, [as a] legacy of the 2004 Olympics, especially related to DNA research and information networks / mobilising. The first ensured the arrested criminals would be correctly identified, the second helped to limit [their] chances of moving around and selling the artifacts and finally closed the circle around the thieves so much they were forced to sell locally.
While Greek police are (or can be) effective, they are also (very) lucky: the thieves were forced to try to sell the stolen goods locally because they were local amateurs.