Substantial reward offered for return of stolen church paintings

Appeal for information after theft of works by Dublin-born artist Evie Hone

Gardaí in Co Galway have issued a fresh appeal for information concerning the theft of specially commissioned church art by Dublin-born painter and glass artist Evie Hone.

A "substantial reward" is available for information leading to the recovery of six scenes from the Passion of Christ which formed the Stations of the Cross. The set of 14 works hung in St Peter's and St Paul's Church, Kiltullagh, near Loughrea, since the mid-1940s until June 22nd when they were reported missing by Fr Martin McNamara.

Det Insp Michael Coppinger told The Irish Times investigators want to trace a couple, believed to be in their 30s, who were seen in the vicinity of the church on the day of the robbery.

“A witness has come forward to tell us that at approximately 3.30pm he sighted a small silver car, possible an old Micra, directly across from the church. The driver was a heavy-set individual and the lady was out of the car in what is best described as a long, flowing dress and she was on the phone. . . We want to eliminate them from our inquiries. They might be quite innocent.”

Det Insp Coppinger said he was also appealing to those in the art and antiquities market.

“Our appeal is also to those in the trade to be vigilant. They may be made an offer for them. It would be very difficult to put an absolute value on them other than to say that they are quite valuable. They would be even more valuable as a complete set.

“Six were taken and the remaining eight have been put away and made secure. Because of the uniqueness of them and the fact that they were commissioned specifically for this church by a local person in memory of her husband they are synonymous with Kiltullagh. For that reason the parishioners are quite upset by this crime.”

It is thought the thieves may try to sell on the stolen pieces overseas.

The reward, which is being offered by Crimestoppers, is unspecified. The stolen paintings could be worth up to €150,000 or up to €6,000 individually.

Evie Hone was a Dublin-born painter and stained-glass artist, who died in 1955. She created works which are in a number of churches, including the east window at Eton College's chapel in Windsor, England.

One of her best-known works is My Four Green Fields which is in Government Buildings in Dublin.

Det Insp Coppinger said: “These paintings are of considerable material value, but they are invaluable to the church and to the parishioners. I am appealing to anyone who can help with this investigation to call Crimestoppers or their local Garda station.” Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 1800 25 00 25.