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One Of Three Stolen Van Goghs Returned To Dutch Museum

April 18, 1989

OTTERLO, Netherlands (AP) _ Police said Monday that art thieves returned one of three Van Gogh paintings stolen from a museum to prove they had the other two and add pressure to their demand for a $2.5 million ransom.

But the thieves failed to give further instructions, no ransom was paid and the location of the remaining two paintings - ″Wilted Sunflowers″ and an early version of the Dutch impressionist’s world famous ″The Potato Eaters″ - remains a mystery, police spokesman Sgt. Theo Reus told The Associated Press.

He said the painting ″The Loom″ was recovered unharmed on April 6 in the trunk of a car parked near the home of R.W.D. Oxenaar, director of the Kroeller-Mueller National Museum in this eastern Dutch village.

Total value of the three works taken after a museum window was smashed on Dec. 12 has been estimated at $100 million to $125 million.

Recovery of ″The Loom″ followed almost a month of secret negotiations between Oxenaar and the thieves, Reus said.

He said that on March 13, the crooks sent Oxenaar a written demand for a $2.5 million ransom in exchange for the three paintings.

The letter drew no response because it contained no proof the sender was in possession of the paintings, he added.

On March 22, a man telephoned Oxenaar asking, ″Why did you not respond to my letter?″ and threatening to burn all three paintings, Reus reported.

A week later, he said, Oxenaar was mailed a recent photograph of ″Wilted Sunflowers″ that experts said was genuine, and on April 6, Oxenaar was called and told where ″The Loom″ had been left.

″They (the thieves) may have thought just a photograph wasn’t convincing enough,″ the sergeant said.

He said the thieves called Oxenaar last Monday to arrange for delivery of the ransom money, but did not follow up as promised with further instructions.

Reus said Monday of efforts to recover the masterpieces, ″We haven’t really found anything - just one painting and that was given to us.″

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