From Tragedy, an Art Theft

Last October, artist Patrick Carroll of the New South Wales Central Coast was dragged unconscious from a fire at the Ebbtide Mall. Despite the best efforts of first responders, the 69 year old could not be revived.

It was a tragic tale made yet more distressing when a 13 year old boy was arrested and charged with manslaughter for having started the fire. And if that wasn't enough, investigators found that a large portion of Carroll's work had gone missing.

ABC Central Coast's Mary Louise Vincent reports that a man has been charged in the theft of 87 pieces of art and valuables from Carroll's studio. In all the take, which included Carroll's paintings, sketches, sculptures and statues, along with a goblet, watch, trophy and a camera, were valued at $160,000 (AUD).

The culprit? An insider. Anthony Lesley Jones, the contractor hired to clean up the mess left by the fire.

Just last week, I wrote about the threat posed by insiders to art collections. Jones' theft of Carroll's works proves yet another example, and an important cautionary tale.

Though this theft occurred at the artist's studio after his death, it's important to note that most stolen art is taken from private residences. I'm often asked what people can do to protect their private collection, and I always tell them to keep careful track of the contractors who do work in their homes. It's important not only to know who you are inviting into your home, but to keep a record of the contractors and service personnel who have done work within it. Record the name, date, and time that such personnel had access to your home and keep it indefinitely. Should you be victimized by a theft, it will be important information for investigators. Too often, people have taken notice of valuables inside of private residences while performing work there, only to return at a later date to take what they believed to be valuable.

Jones will be back in court later this month to face charges that include 10 offenses, including larceny, possessing an unauthorized pistol, three counts of possessing an unauthorized firearm and possessing a prohibited drug.

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