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pounds 1mPAINTINGS FOUND IN LOO; Stolen art recovered after tip-off.


THREE paintings worth pounds 1m stolen from an art gallery were found today.

The works by Van Gogh,Picasso and Gauguin were taken in a raid at Manchester's Whitworth art gallery after 9pmon Saturday.

Staff found the paintings were missing when they opened the gallery to the public at noon yesterday.

A police inquiry was launched and scenes of crime officers spent much of yesterday afternoon combing the gallery for evidence.

Three paintings were today found behind public toilets after an anonymous phone call shortly before 2am. They have been returned to the gallery where they were being checked for damage.

A Greater Manchester police spokesman said: ``We received information that a number of paintings were placed behind a public toilet near the Whitworth gallery. Three were recovered and taken to the gallery to protect them from exposure and further damage where they will be verified later by an expert.''

The three paintings, the largest of which measured 39cms by 53cms (15ins by 20ins),included The Fortification of Paris with Houses, painted by Vincent Van Gogh when he was 25.

The others were Poverty painted in 1903 by Pablo Picasso, then aged 24,and Paul Gauguin's Tahitian Landscape, painted between 1891 and 1893.

The Whitworth art gallery boasts more than 40,000 pieces of art in its ``nationally significant'' collection, with only around 10% being on display at any one time.

Among the other works held by the gallery, which is owned and run by Manchester University, are 11 more Picassos and Van Gogh's Hayricks.

It is believed the three watercolour paintings could have been stolen to order as part of a multimillion pound industry.

But Andrew Graham-Dixon, a writer and presenter of the BBC television series Renaissance, also believes it could have quite easily been carried out by ``naive thieves'' hoping to re-sell thepaintings.


TOILET RUMOUR: The paintings worth pounds 1m were found behind public toilets near to the Whitworth Gallery.(Right)Picasso's Poverty
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 28, 2003
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