French police are trying to track down the owners of hundreds of works of art stolen by a compulsive thief who went on a twenty-year stealing spree in hotels, museums, shops and galleries across France. Officers found the works when they raided the 45-year-old alleged thief’s apartment in Avignon and came across what they described as an “Aladdin’s cave” of art works.

The alleged serial thief specialized in targeting local art collectors in the Vaucluse region of France but appears to have ventured as far as London and Paris, ripping off hotels and shops as well as museums and galleries. Rather conveniently for the police, he took the time to catalogue his acquisitions, tagging them with notes about the date and location of the burglary, as well as the estimated value (Maybe he just likes pretty notebooks?)

The thief allegedly disguised himself with a big coat and hat to carry out the robberies. His error was revisiting an Avignon hotel two months after stealing two paintings there. He was recognised by a receptionist who called the police. Reportedly, he cooperated with authorities and claimed to be a kleptomaniac.
An initial trial, over the theft of two paintings in Avignon, is scheduled to take place within the coming months.
Police photographed more than 500 paintings, sculptures, precious books and even vinyl records included in the thief’s “collection”, and have put them in an online catalogue alongside an appeal for their owners to come forward. To date, 40 works have been returned to their owners.

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