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Three convicted in theft of Munch's ‘Scream’

Norway court acquits three others in 2004 heist of masterpieces
/ Source: The Associated Press

A Norwegian court convicted three people Tuesday in the theft of Edvard Munch masterpieces “The Scream” and “Madonna,” delivering a verdict that left questions surrounding the identities of gunmen who carried out the robbery.

The three Norwegian men sentenced Tuesday to prison terms of between four and eight years were convicted of providing or driving the getaway car.

But the Oslo court did not find proof that any of them, or three others who were acquitted Tuesday, were the masked, gun-wielding robbers who actually stole the Norwegian national treasures in front of shocked witnesses.

There are four versions of “The Scream,” one of the world’s most recognized painted images, showing an anguished figure against a surrealistic reddish sky.

During the six-week trial, the prosecution had singled out Stian Skjold, 30, as the mastermind of the robbery and one of the two masked men who entered the museum.

However, the court acquitted him, saying it was unlikely he carried out the heist because he would have been too easily identified due to his pronounced stutter and very tall, thin build.

The court did convict Petter Tharaldsen, 34, of driving the getaway car and sentenced him to eight years in prison.

Bjoern Hoen, 37, was sentenced to seven years in prison, and Petter Rosenvinge, 38, to four years for their roles in providing and preparing the getaway car.

**RETRANSMISSION FOR ALTERNATE CROP TO SHOW ALL THREE ROBBERS ** Armed robbers who raided the Munch Museum in Oslo Sunday Aug. 22, 2004, run to load stolen paintings into the back of a waiting getaway car outside the museum. The robbers stormed in as the museum was about to open to the public, threatened staff and public and made away with among others Edvard Munchs' best known paintings \"The Scream\" and \"Madonna\". (AP Photo/ SCANPIX) ** BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE NORWAY OUT TV OUT **SCANPIX

Tharaldsen and Hoen were also ordered to pay $123 million in compensation to the City of Oslo, which owns the paintings.

Even though three defendants were acquitted, Prosecutor Terje Nyboe declined to describe the ruling as a failure.

“We got convictions for the three who were most likely to convict based on the evidence, so in that regard I am satisfied with the ruling,” he was quoted as saying by news agency NTB.

Despite an international police hunt, and the offer of a $328,000 reward, the paintings have not been recovered.

Munch’s emotionally charged painting style became a major influence in the birth of the 20th-century expressionist movement.

“The Scream” and “Madonna” were part of his “Frieze of Life” series, focusing on sickness, death, anxiety and love.

Munch died in 1944 at the age of 80.