Art thief confesses to Van Gogh Museum robbery in newspaper interview

One of two men convicted for stealing two paintings from the Van Gogh Museum in 2002, told his story to the Telegraaf over the weekend. Octave Durham told the newspaper that he and companion Henk B. actually wanted to steal the famous paintings Sunflowers and The Potato Eaters, but the first was too well guarded and the second was too large to fit through the window they broke to get into the museum.

Durham and B. eventually made off with two other paintings - Seafront at Scheveningen and Congregation leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen. These paintings were recovered from the Italian mafia last year. Durham would not tell the newspaper how much the Italian mafia paid for them. "I will not mention an amount. Otherwise I'll get a surcharge from the tax authorities", he said.

The paintings were only sold to the Italian mafia after failed attempts to sell them in the Netherlands. Durham and B. initially wanted to sell the paintings to criminal Sam Klepper, but he was assassinated shortly before the robbery. Afterwards they contacted Heineken-kidnapper Cor van Hout, but he too was assassinated before he could buy the paintings.

For years Durham denied having anything to do with the robbery in the museum in Amsterdam. He was still convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. 

After being recovered, the two paintings were initially considered evidence in the Italian authorities' case against the mafia. But in January a court ruled that they could be released and returned to the Netherlands.