Daring gallery heist by thieves posing as art teacher and students

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Three men posing as an art teacher and two students stole paintings worth about £1.25 million by some of South Africa’s most celebrated artists off the walls of a gallery in a brazen day-time robbery.

The three paid their entrance fee of about 70p at the Pretoria Art Museum on Sunday and asked staff to direct them to six works, which happened to be among the most valuable on display. Staff said it seemed as if they had a shopping list.

They then produced weapons, tied up a museum worker and took five art works out of the building. “They exactly knew what they wanted and they were almost certainly commissioned to steal these paintings,” said Pieter de Necker, a spokesman for the city authorities.

The thieves nearly pulled of an even bigger heist. They had to leave behind one painting by Irma Stern called Two Malay Musicians, valued at about £880,000, because they could not fit it into their getaway vehicle in time, with security guards closing in.