The romance of the heist is undeniable. No mere burglary, a heist implies… that there is a treasure, a protagonist with the patience, planning, coordination… and ideally, a daring escape. – The Quartz, December 2019.
I’m obsessed with heists. Jewelry heists. Art heists. Cold hard cash heists. It doesn’t matter. The intrigue of the mastermind thief. The daring escape. It’s no coincidence two of my books are about female art thieves.
I’ve decided to start my own heist catalogue. I’m going to call it the Haddock Strong Heist Almanac. It’ll highlight random heists. Heist I stumble upon in the news or hear about from a friend. Both modern day and centuries old. No criteria, just whatever captures my attention and sucks me in. Here’s volume 1 of my almanac.
What was stolen: Diamonds and jewelry
Approximate value: Priceless
Where and when: Harry Winston jewelry store, Paris, 2007
Heist highlights: The hooded thieves were already inside Harry Winston Paris when it opened in the morning. The tied up employees as they arrived at work and made off with 480 pieces of jewelry, none of which have ever been recovered.
Why I find it intriguing: It was committed by a gang of thieves – an operation, like you see in a movie. The thieves got caught partially because they bragged and spent lavishly.
Want to know more: Vanity Fair article: Harry Winston Diamond Heist
What was stolen: A painting by Willem de Kooning (Woman-Ochre)
Approximate value: $100 million
Where and when: University of Arizona, 1985
Heist highlights: The painting was cut from its frame and smuggled out while the museum was open. It vanished without a trace for 30 years until it showed up as part of as an estate sale in 2017.
What I find most intriguing about this heist: The presumed thieves are an unassuming retired couple. The painting hung in their bedroom for decades.
Want to know more: Article from the University of Arizona Magazine
What was stolen: Five paintings
Approximate value? $70 million
Where and when: Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2010
Heist highlights: It was carried out by a famous French burglar nicknamed Spiderman for his ability to scale buildings. After casing the museum, he spent six nights removing screws from a window before actually entering the building. When he did enter, he stayed briefly and left without taking anything. He waited outside for fifteen minutes to insure he hadn’t set off the alarm. He ended up stealing five paintings, more than he’d planned, and it took him two trips to carry his loot out to his car.
Why I find it intriguing: The thief was so patient and meticulous, but also recklessly daring.
Want to know more: Real life Spiderman article in the New Yorker
What was stolen: Thirteen works of art
Approximate value? $500 million
Where and when: Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA, 1990
Heist highlights: Two thieves disguised as police officers talked their way into the museum and tied up the guards. They spent almost ninety minutes roaming the building before making off with thirteen works of art, including those by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet and Vermeer.
Why I find it intriguing: None of the pieces have ever been recovered and the empty frames still hang in the museum. This case has tormented countless private detectives and FBI agents.
Want to know more: Boston Globe series about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist.