Axe-wielding thieves broke into cabinet at Green Vault museum in Dresden royal palace

A 49-carat diamond estimated to be worth up to 9m was among the items stolen from a German state museum this week, the museum has confirmed.

The Green Vault museum at Dresdens royal palace said the items taken on Monday included a sword with a hilt encrusted with nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, and a shoulderpiece containing the famous 49-carat Dresden white diamond.

Eleven pieces were removed in the raid and parts of three other items are also missing.

The Dresden white diamond was one of the most precious jewels in the collection that once belonged to the former Saxon ruler Augustus the Strong. Tobias Kormind, the managing director of 77 Diamonds, a diamond retailer, said it could be worth up to 8m or 9m. None of the diamonds would have been in themselves extra special except for the one large Dresden white, he said.

The Dresden white diamond is at the top of a jewelled shoulderpiece. Photograph: Juergen Karpinski/Green Vault (Gruenes Gewoelbe)/AFP via Getty Images

The huge cushion-cut gem was made in the early 18th century and bought at great expense by Augustus the Strong, the Elector of Saxony, in 1728.

In CCTV footage released by police late on Monday, one of the robbers can be seen using an axe to break into the display case containing three diamond jewellery collections.

The thieves launched their audacious raid in the early hours of Monday, starting a partial power cut before breaking through a window protected by iron bars. They then headed straight for the display cabinet in what police said was a targeted and premeditated crime.

Police said on Wednesday that after studying the video material they now believed there were four perpetrators.

Police at the royal palace in Dresden. Photograph: Robert Michael/DPA/AFP via Getty Images

The investigative commission said it had received 205 tip-offs from the public by Wednesday afternoon.

Dresdens police chief, Jrg Kubiessa, told the broadcaster ZDF that a criminal gang may be behind the robbery. Dresden police said they were in contact with colleagues in Berlin to explore possible connections to a similar raid in the capital two years ago.

In 2017 a 100kg, 24-carat gold coin was stolen from Berlins Bode Museum. Four men with links to a Berlin gang were later arrested and put on trial. The coin has never been recovered.

Fears are growing that the Dresden treasures will also remain lost forever, and questions have been raised about how the thieves were able to break in so easily. How safe are Germanys museums? asked the regional broadcaster MDR.

On Tuesday evening the director of Dresdens state art collections, Marion Ackermann, defended the security measures at the Green Vault, saying about 8m was spent on security each year.



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