Dresden museum thieves smash display case with axe in dramatic CCTV footage

Dramatic CCTV footage, released by German officials Monday, shows of one of two thieves using an axe to smash a display case in a raid at one of Europe’s greatest collections of treasures, displayed in Dresden’s Green Vault museum.

Security footage from the incident, which occurred just before dawn Monday morning, captured the moment thieves bashed open one of the display cabinets at Dresden‘s Gruenes Gewoelbe, or Green Vault, before stealing three priceless sets of early 18th century jewelry encrusted in diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

In the black-and-white surveillance footage, two men can be seen breaking into the museum through a baroque grilled window.

Saxony police released footage on Monday afternoon. The museum, meanwhile, described the stolen goods as priceless, claiming it would be impossible to see the objects on the open market.

In a statement, police said they were alerted shortly before 5 a.m. (0300 GMT) to the museum break-in.  Officers reportedly arrived at the scene within minutes.

They said prior to the raid, the thieves set fire to an electrical panel near the museum in the early hours of Monday by the Augustus Bridge, deactivating its alarm as well as street lighting.

“The whole act lasted only a few minutes,” the statement read.

Police said the suspects fled in an Audi A6 and remain on the run. The alleged getaway car was later found on fire elsewhere in the city and will be examined for clues, police said.

There are currently no suspects in custody, but investigators are reviewing footage captured by security cameras. Although footage showed two individuals, police said they expect “more perpetrators” are involved.

“All in all, the circumstances speak in favour of a purposeful and prepared act,” said Olaf Richter, head of a 20-person special member commission comprised of criminologists assigned to the case.

Police have called for witnesses to come forward and released images of the stolen items, which were taken from a collection of jewelry that once belonged to the ruler of Saxony, Augustus the Strong.

They include a sword whose hilt is encrusted with nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, and a diamond bow decorated with 662 brilliants.

Three Green Vault sets were affected by the robbery — one of which was entitled “The Diamond Jewelery and the Pearls of the Queens,” the museum wrote on its website.

The treasury of Augustus the Strong of Saxony was established in 1723 and today contains around 4,000 objects of gold, precious stones and other materials on display in the historic palace.

Several politicians condemned the robbery.

“It’s not just the State Art Collections that was robbed, but us Saxons,” Minister-President of Saxony Michael Kretschmer tweeted on Monday.

“One can’t understand the history of Saxony without the Green Vault.”

“This is a bitter day for the cultural heritage of Saxony,” Saxony’s interior minister, Roland Woeller told reporters shortly after the robbery on Monday.

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