At around noon on Tuesday, alarms sounded at Strangnas Cathedral in Strangnas, Sweden. Law enforcement was immediately alerted, as the cathedral housed Sweden’s valuable and culturally significant crown jewels, but by the time they could arrive, the thieves, and a number of irreplaceable items, were already gone. An early assessment of the daring daytime heist, however, seems to suggest less of an “Ocean’s Eleven” type robbery, and instead something more akin to the sort of smash-and-grab job you might find in the Fast and Furious movies.
The cathedral was open to the public at the time of the incident. According to witness reports and statements made by staff on location, two men approached the sealed glass enclosure that protects Sweden’s crown jewels from the many visitors who hope to steal a glance at the symbolic beauty and very real wealth the collection of crowns, orbs, and staffs represent — but where most visitors are content to peer through the clear barrier, these men were there to steal more than a glance.
They smashed the glass case, grabbed one 17th century orb and two gold crowns from the display and high tailed it out of the building. Alarms sounded, but thus far it appears that there was no other form of security to act as a barrier between the thieves and their escape, though a spokeswoman for the cathedral has been quoted as saying that the security precautions in place were “in accordance with strict guidelines.” Once outside the building, the two men jumped onto what has been reported as women’s bicycles — though it remains unclear as to whether they had placed those bikes there as a means of escape, or if they seized the opportunity for a faster departure when they came across them.
“I knew immediately they were burglars because of the way they were behaving,” a witness named Tom Rowell told the media. “It’s despicable that people would steal from a holy building and a historical building.”
Their daring escape didn’t end with girl’s bicycles, however. Once the men reached the nearby Lake Malaren, they were seen climbing aboard a motorboat and speeding off. Neither the men nor the crown jewels have been seen since. A manhunt was soon underway, including multiple police boats and at least one helicopter, but the hunt proved fruitless.
The Swedish royal family has reported that they do have an insurance policy on the objects that were stolen, but a number of officials have made statements regarding the cultural loss this theft represents — a loss that can’t be recouped with insurance.
“It’s 1-0 to them right now,” police spokesperson Thomas Agnevik told reporters. “It is not possible to put an economic value on this, it is invaluable items of national interest.”
The crowns and orb that were stolen are made of a combination of gold, pearls and a number of other precious materials in lesser quantities. They date back to the 17th Century when they were worn by King Charles IX and his wife, Christina. Although the police currently have no suspects, they believe the stolen property will eventually find its way back into the hands of the monarch.
“What usually happens with this type of object is that they are recovered sooner or later, because there are very few people who are prepared to handle such items,” Police spokesman Agnevik told reporters. “We have high hopes of getting them back.”
Featured image: Swedish royal funeral regalia, including gold burial crowns (dated from the 17th century) belonging to King Karl IX (top-L) and his wife Queen Christina (top-R) | Swedish Police
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