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Hiding in plain sight: Art detective finds stolen Spanish treasures in unlikely spot

Hiding in plain sight: Art detective finds stolen Spanish treasures in unlikely spot
An investigator dubbed the ‘Indiana Jones of the art world’ has recovered two priceless stone treasures stolen from a Spanish church over a decade ago after tracing them to the garden of an English aristocrat.

The carved friezes were stolen from the Visigoth-era Santa Maria de Lara church near Burgos in Spain, which dates back to between the seventh and eleventh centuries.

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Dutchman Arthur Brand spent years on the case before a tip-off in 2010 led him to focus his search efforts on England, where the artifacts were sold by a shady dealer as garden ornaments.

Brand told the AFP that an unsuspecting aristocratic British family purchased the pair of religious carvings, probably for around £100,000 in total, and popped them into their garden.

Upon approaching the couple and revealing the truth behind their elaborate stoneworks, Brand said they reacted with such shock that they “wanted to throw the artworks into a river and let them disappear forever.”

“Fortunately we managed to convinced [sic] them not to," the art sleuth added.

The pieces weigh a hefty 50 kilos (110 lbs) each and have been handed over to Spain’s Guardia Civil. Brand took to Twitter to thank Spanish, Dutch and British police for their help in the remarkable recovery.

The art detective has incredible form in the safe recovery of invaluable works believed forever lost after their theft, including paintings nabbed in a brazen daylight raid on the Westfries Museum in the Netherlands in 2005, and two huge bronze horse statues commissioned by Adolf Hitler and hidden by Nazis for years.

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