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Scotland Yard in Pursuit of Looters in Epirus

29 June 2014 / 21:06:42  GRReporter
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After the theft of two icons and other objects from Evangelistria church in Kato Merope near Yannina, the local authorities in Epirus expressed fear of a new attack by looters who have already ravaged monasteries and chapels, stealing more than 200 valuable items.

Investigation by the Ethnos newspaper showed that after the discovery of many icons in galleries in London and Amsterdam, Scotland Yard has compiled a 150-page report on the subject and identified as a leader of the looters 43 year-old D.D from Trikala, who is working in the tourism industry. The report will be sent to the Greek authorities and it contains details of the big looters’ network selling icons and church plates as far away as Istanbul.

An icon of Saint George dated to 18th C., stolen in 2009 from the Church of Saint Athanasius and found in Dullaert Gallery in Amsterdam.

Blasphemers in Kato Peropi broke a skylight at the rear of the church located in the centre of the village. They broke in by means of a hose, ripped away two icons, took a gospel, a hand-woven cloak with the image of the Last Supper, an oil painting, two cups and other items.

According to the report received by the police, the icons and the remaining other items are of contemporary origin, and may not be associated with the band, but the investigation will check each version carefully.

Evangelistria Church is the central church of the village, and the area is known for 3 other important Byzantine monuments: the Prodromos Monastery of 1614, the Church of St. Athanasius of 1585, and the Assumption of Mary Church dated to the late 15th century.

The Candlemas Icon stolen from the Assumption of Mary Church

In recent years, the monasteries in Epirus have been robbed in one and the same way – always by means of a latch-key. There have been found missing more than 200 objects of religious value. Most thefts have been dated to the winter of 2009, and most damage has been done to the Assumption of Mary Church in Kilkis, dated to 1630.

Right before Christmas, on a cold winter night with heavy snowfall, robbers stole 64 icons, two gospels, church plates, and even the relics of St. Panteleimon and St. Haralambos. The value of some of the icons reaches 1 million euro. One of them was found in 2010 in Monastiraki and the holder was charged with concealing stolen property.

Many icons were found and returned by the galleries of Temple in London and Dullaert in Amsterdam.  According to the information gathered, Richard Temple himself informed the police about the 43-year-old resident of Trikala.

Collectors have found stolen icons in the Internet catalogue of the antique collector H.W.C. Dullaert in April 2011. The icons were seized by the Dutch police.

11 icons stolen from the Assumption of Mary Church in Kilkis as well as from the Saint Tryphon Church  in Vikos have been returned. One of them was found in the Temple Gallery, and the other 10 were found in the Dullaert Gallery.

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