Monday February 13, 2017
'This was a big job': Thieves nab $3M worth of rare books in Mission Impossible-style heist
more stories from this episode
A group of seemingly well-organized thieves has stolen more than $3 million worth of rare, antique books from a warehouse in London, England.
According to the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, police believe the culprits climbed onto the building's roof on Jan. 29, drilled holes through reinforced fibreglass skylights and rappelled down on 12 metres of rope to avoid setting off the warehouse's door alarms.
They left the way they came, carrying with them 160 books, among them 15th- and 16th-century works by Galileo, Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci. They were worth £2 million ($3.27 million Cdn).
"This was a big job," rare book dealer Alessandro Meda Riquier told CBC Radio As It Happens guest host Helen Mann. "Police said that it took more than three hours to complete."
Meda Riquier lost about $1.6 million worth of books in the heist. Among them were a 1569 edition of Dante's Divine Comedy and a second-edition copy of Copernicus's On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, "the book that explained for the first time that the centre of the universe was not the Earth but the sun."
"I lost many important books," Meda Riquier said.
Fortunately for Meda Riquier, the books were insured.
"But having the money back does not mean I will be able to find them again and purchase them again," he said.
Collecting antique tomes is more than a hobby for Meda Riquier,
"This is my job," he said. "So this will affect my job in the future for a long time."
The burglary has left rare book dealers distressed — but also baffled. Because the stolen books are so well-known, Meda Riquier said, they would be "quite impossible" to fence.
One source familiar with the case told the Guardian: "There must be a collector behind it."
Asked if he thinks he'll ever see his prized texts again, Meda Riquier told As It Happens: "I don't really have great expectation."