Theft of Los Angeles Philharmonic's Stradivarius Cello Was Captured on Videotape; $50,000 Reward Offered
Friday, May 07, 2004
Associated Press - 7 May 2004
LOS ANGELES (AP) ó Police said a $50,000 reward was offered Thursday for the return of a Stradivarius cello stolen from a musician's home by someone on a bicycle.
Police believe the thief may live in the Los Feliz neighborhood, located near Hollywood, from where it was stolen in the early morning hours on April 25.
Owned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, it was played by principal cellist Peter Stumpf, who was out of town when it was stolen.
"It is truly a cultural treasure that has been stolen," Police Chief William Bratton said at a news conference announcing the reward, which police said was offered by an anonymous donor.
The 1684 cello was valued at $3.5 million but is considered priceless because it cannot be replaced, said Gail Samuel, the orchestra's general manager.
"This instrument would be very quickly identified ... it would be very difficult to sell it," she said. Police believe the thief may live in the neighborhood and were going to go door-to-door to blanket the area with reward fliers.
The city's nearly 100 pawn shops ó where used items are bought and sold ó as well as music shops overseas have been notified of the theft, Capt. Jerry C. Szymanski said.
The cello was one of only about 60 made by master craftsman Antonio Stradivari and was purchased by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association about three decades ago.
The instrument was nicknamed the "General Kyd" for the man who brought it to England from Italy near the end of the 18th century. Cellist Leo Stern performed the British premiere of Dvor·k's famous cello concerto on the instrument in 1896.
Police declined to detail how the thief got into the home. A grainy surveillance camera videotape from a neighbor's home showed a man lugging the 4.5-foot (1.35 meters) tall silver-colored cello case in one hand as he tries to ride away on the bicycle.
The flier said the thief appears to be between 15 and 26 years old. It was unclear whether the thief had targeted the cello or it was crime of opportunity, the detective said.
In an earlier part of the videotape, the bicyclist is seen riding up the hilly street past the home. He later is seen returning, parking the bike, and disappearing, only to return to the street carrying the cello case.
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