BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The trial of six Romanians accused of stealing masterpieces from a Dutch museum was adjourned for a month Tuesday, shortly after it began, with the chief suspect's lawyer denying claims the paintings have been burned to ashes.
The paintings, by Picasso, Matisse and Monet, among others, were stolen last year from Rotterdam's Kunsthal gallery.
Forensic experts at Romania's National History Museum have examined ash from the stove of Olga Dogaru, the mother of the chief suspect, Radu Dogaru. According to authorities, she initially said she burned the paintings to protect her son, but later denied having done so.
Speaking after Tuesday's hearing at the Bucharest Tribunal, Radu Dogaru's lawyer, Catalin Dancu, said a new "expert report" would clarify the situation. "I tell you now that you will be surprised that they are not burned," Dancu said, adding that he did not know where the paintings are now.
Dancu said his client had proposed a deal with Dutch authorities by which he would hand over five of the seven pictures, but that the Dutch had refused any deal unless all seven were handed over.
The seven paintings were stolen last October in the biggest art heist to hit the Netherlands for more than a decade.
Thieves broke in through a rear emergency exit of the Kunsthal, grabbed the paintings off the wall, put them in sacks and fled — all within minutes.
The stolen works were "Tete d'Arlequin" by Pablo Picasso, "La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune" by Henri Matisse, "Waterloo Bridge" and "Charing Cross Bridge" by Claude Monet, "Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, dite la fiancee" by Paul Gauguin, "Autoportrait" by Meyer de Haan, and "Woman with Eyes Closed" by Lucian Freud.
The paintings have an estimated value of tens of millions of dollars, if sold at auction.