Art lover stole sculptures worth €52,000

A man from Salzburg who is serving a prison sentence for property offences is also an art thief, police have discovered.

Art lover stole sculptures worth €52,000
Residenz Square, Salzburg. Photo: APA/Helmut Fohringer

The 50-year-old stole six bronze sculptures over the past five years, worth a total of €52,000. His motive was a love of art – he didn't sell them but put them on display in his flat.

On Easter Monday the man was on day release from prison and went to an art fair in the Salzburg Residenz Palace. Whilst he was there he stole a sculpture worth €8,000 from an Upper Austrian art dealer.

Police were able to identify the thief from surveillance camera footage from the art fair – and realised he had a criminal record. 

When the man was questioned he confessed to having stolen the sculpture and showed police the rest of his collection. 

None of the sculptures have been damaged, and they will be returned to their owners. The man said he had taken them because he “has a great interest in art, architecture, and interior design”.

His method for stealing the art was always the same – when he wasn’t being watched he would cover the sculpture with his jacket, and then pick it up and put it under his arm, before taking it back to his apartment where he displayed it on a special stone base he had made for the purpose.

He has been serving his current prison sentence since November 2013 and will now be tried for commercial fraud. His right to day release has been revoked.


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EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

Following the suicide of an Austrian doctor who received threats from Covid-19 anti-vaccination activists, the government has now launched a new campaign to help victims of online abuse.

EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

The Austrian medical community was left in shock in July when Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, a local doctor in Seewalchen am Attersee in Upper Austria, took her own life following months of online abuse.

Kellermayr, 36, had been targeted by anti-vaccination activists and Covid-19 conspiracy theorists for her out-spoken support of vaccines, and the abuse even included death threats. 

Her death prompted candlelight vigils and demonstrations in Vienna and the tragic story was picked up by news outlets around the world.

READ MORE: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

This led to calls for tighter laws against online bullying and the ability for perpetrators to be prosecuted in other EU countries – particularly as at least two of the people who are believed to have targeted Kellermayr are based in Germany, according to the Guardian.

The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has even called for the creation of a special public prosecutor’s office to deal with “hate-on-the-net”, but this has been rejected by prosecutors and other political parties, as reported by ORF.

Instead, the Federal Justice Department has launched a new information campaign, website and hotline to help people dealing with online abuse.

FOR MEMBERS: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

What is in the new campaign?

Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) said they have launched the campaign to raise awareness about the issue and to inform victims about the support available.

Zadic said: “It is important to me that those affected know that they are not alone in this situation and that the judiciary supports them with free psychological and legal process support.”

“You don’t have to cope alone with the extraordinary burdens that criminal proceedings can entail, for example through confrontation with the perpetrators.”

READ ALSO: Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Part of the support package is the new website Hilfe bei Gewalt (Help with Violence), which details how to access help from the authorities, as well as secure free legal advice and representation from a lawyer.

The website states the service is for victims of bullying and/or hate online, defamation, stalking, terrorism, incitement, sexual violence and robbery.

The service is designed to be anonymous with options to contact the Justice Department by phone or via a chat box. The website also lists contact details for regional support services in all provinces across Austria. 

The free (kostenlos) hotline for Hilfe bei Gewalt is 0800 112 112.

Useful links

Hilfe bei Gewalt

Austrian Federal Justice Department