Editors Note: Because of difficulty procuring these incriminating photos we’ve included a few from the archive and with the firing of Court Painter’s Continuity Assistant we suggest the reader exercise a fullness of imagination in connecting the dots.____________________
A co-defendant in one of Calgary’s biggest art heists has told a court she destroyed and threw away five art masterpieces worth more than $100m that were stolen by a thief nicknamed “The Cranster”.
Ms. D(enise) Clark was among three people who went on trial in the case on Monday. The five paintings stolen in 2010 from a studio in the Inglewood area of Calgary by the legendary Court Painter have never been found.
“I threw them into the trash,” Ms.Clark repeated three times at the court bar, in tears. “I made the worst mistake of my existence except…..” looking wistfully at the Cranster and then the ceiling, she failed to finish the sentence.
Neither the investigating judge nor other defendants at the trial believe the svelte Ms. Clark’s claims. The investigators believe the five paintings had been taken out of Canada on the back of indentured art labourers. Ms. Clark’s co-defendant testified she was “too smart” to destroy the masterpieces, At this point Clark stated screaming at her co defendant.”I knew I shouldn’t have said I do…I meant to say I dint.”
The main suspect Chris Cran dubbed “the Cranster” by Canadian news media, has been convicted 14 times in the past, notably for art thefts and being drunk in public. Authorities found climbing gear at his home: gloves, ropes, a harness, climbing shoes , botox, suction cups,a partridge and a pair of trees.
Cranster testified that at about 3am on 20 May 2016, he broke into the fashionable Inglewood studio with great difficulty, taking advantage of failures in the security, alarm and video-surveillance systems as well as cuddling a slumbering junk yard chimp named Leroy.
The Cranster removed the glass from a bay window without breaking it, cut the padlock of the metal grid behind it, allowing him to then move from one studio space to another without arousing the one drug addled guard’s suspicions.
Cranster was there to steal a painting by Allan Harding MacKay. But then he said that when he came across the hoard of work by the Court Painter he decided to take them as well. ( later telling his diarist that he felt like Mr H. Carter, the guy that discovered King Tut’s tomb).
Several hours after the burglary,the Cranster said, he offered five of the Court Painter’s paintings to the curator of the elusive National Portrait Gallery of Canada who said he was “totally stunned by them especially when you hold them up to the light.”
Ms.Clark said she initially gave the Cranster a plastic bag containing $40,000 (Canadian) in small denominations ,mostly nickels, just for the MacKay work because she was unsure Cranster would get buyers for the other paintings.
Ms.Clark became worried about keeping the artworks after several months because of the mould and showed them to her friend kd Lang. kd said she agreed to buy the MacKay for $80,000 and to store the other Court Painter works in the music room of her Portland flat .
Ms.Clark said she panicked when police began investigating and, in May 2016,she retrieved the MacKay from kd, returned to her cold water walkup and broke the stretcher bars on all the canvasses before throwing them all into the building’s trash.
The Cranster is charged with stealing public cultural property, while Ms.Clark and kd are accused of receiving stolen goods. The three are also accused of taking part in a criminal conspiracy to commit the art thefts that have become legendary in Inglewood.
Both Clark and kd will be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Clark will be denied her ballet shoes and kd must not hum a chord of Hallelujah. Cranster will get up to 20 years as a repeat offender but will be allowed to wear his one solitary T-shirt in the big slammer.
After he was questioned, the Cranster came up with a doozy of a conspiracy plot and said he was sure Ms.Clark didn’t destroy the paintings and wanted her to say where they were located. “These are my artworks,” he whimpered.
When contacted, both the Court Painter and MacKay concurred that they were not surprised as they both knew that this gang were both ruthless thieves and had no respect for cultural property that also happen to be national treasurers. Mackay was especially incensed and kept throwing up his hands and yelling “I hope they throw the book at all of them and I hope to god this story gets picked up by Ezra at The Rebel”.