TODAY

TODAY   |  July 19, 2013

Stolen art may have been burned by suspect’s mom

The remains of works by Picasso, Matisse, and Monet stolen last year were found in an abandoned house. The Romanian mother of a suspect in the theft told police that to protect her son she put the paintings in the stove and burned them. NBC’s Keir Simmons reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> to a troubling development tied to a multimillion dollar art heists. bits of the paintings have now been found in a woman's oven. keir simmons in london this morning with those details. keir, good morning to you.

>> imagine your a mom that thinking your son may have stolen famous art work. then you hear the police are coming. do you destroy the masterpieces loved by millions around the world or do you hand the son you love over to justice. that's what this woman appears to have faced and she appears to have decided to burn the art.

>> reporter: it was a devastating crime, works by picasso, monet, stolen. from the seven art works taken last year this maybe all that's left. fragments of paint and nails that held the paintings in place. scientists studied and tated these small pieces of evidence and fear it is the stolen art. what's thought to be the remains of the paintings were found here in an abandoned house . the work of a mom trying to save her son. the mother of a suspect in the theft told police she put the paintings in the stove and burnt them. he is one of six who will stand trial next month for the break in at the museum.

>> it strikes me as a desperate and terrible attempt of a mother to try and protect her son. it's a great shame that we won't see these paintings. and a huge loss.

>> security moments captured the moment the gang got in. at the time, police were asking how they got away.

>> people responsible for this found a way in and a way out and they found the time to take seven paintings.

>> reporter: now the art world is questioning itself how paintings so important could be taken so easily and possibly destroyed. works worth hundreds of millions of dollars but irreplaceable. the director of the museum is saying if they have gone up in flames it will be a crime against humanity but there maybe mothers around the country asking themselves what would they do?

>> that is an interesting call but a tragedy that we lost those works of art . keir simmons , thank you very