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Arts & Culture

Surveillance Footage Focuses Interest on Security Guard in 1990 Boston Art Heist

An empty frame marks where a Rembrandt once hung in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

More than 25 years ago, one of the most infamous art heists in history occurred at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. On Thursday, federal law enforcement officials released new surveillance video from the eve of the heist that shows a possible "dry run" of the theft.

Watch the surveillance footage:

The Boston Globe reports that investigators are refocused on security guard Richard Abath. 

The video footage, taken by the museum’s surveillance cameras and only recently viewed by law enforcement officials, shows a night watchman open the museum’s side door and grant unauthorized access to an unidentified man at about 12:49 a.m. on March 17, 1990 – 24 hours before the museum was robbed under similar circumstances.

Abath has long been a person of interest in the theft of 13 pieces of artwork, including three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, and a Manet. The total value of the artwork was half a billion dollars.

Earlier this year, Abath spoke with his wife Diana about the heist during a StoryCorps segment on NPR's Morning Edition:

Credit Boston Police Department
Police found Richard Abath in this position after thieves stole half a billion dollars worth of artwork from the Gardner Museum in Boston.

Abath has acknowledged letting in the thieves who were dressed as cops. During the StoryCorps segment, his wife Diane asked if he felt embarrassed.

"More than anything else, I'm angry about it," said Abath. "Ultimately, I'm the one who made that decision to buzz them in. "

Abath and his partner that night were duct taped around their eyes and handcuffed to an electrical box for seven hours.

In 2013, investigators said the stolen paintings went through underground channels in Connecticut before they were last seen in Philadelphia.

The FBI is offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of all the items in good condition.

Tucker Ives is WNPR's morning news producer.

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