Surveillance Footage Sheds New Light on Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist

Newly discovered video seems to show the night watchman granting access to someone 24 hours before the heist.

The FBI has released never-before-seen surveillance footage from inside the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which appears to show the night watchman granting someone access 24 hours prior to the 1990 heist—the most notorious in art history.

“Over many months we have engaged in an exhaustive re-examination of the original evidence in this case. Our aim has been to ensure that all avenues have been explored in the continuing quest to recover these artworks,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said. “Today we are releasing video images from the night before the theft—images which have not previously been seen by the public—with the hope of identifying an unauthorized visitor to the museum. With the public’s help, we may be able to develop new information that could lead to the recovery of these invaluable works of art.”

The watchman, discovered by the Boston Globe to be middle-aged Vermont resident Richard Abath, buzzed two men dressed as police officers into the museum through the same door on March 18, 1990, the following night. The men subdued Abath and spent the next 81 minutes stealing 13 works of art, including pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Manet, worth between $200-500 million.

Previously, Abath—whose footsteps were the only ones picked up by motion detectors in the gallery where most of the paintings were stolen—has admitted to opening the museum’s door on Palace Road 20 minutes prior to the heist, a violation of security protocol.

The surveillance footage also shows a car parked outside the museum, matching the description of the car spotted the night of the heist.

In April, Robert V. Gentile, the last surviving person of interest in the case, was arrested while meeting with probation officials and charged with selling a weapon to an undercover agent. Gentile, 78, recently spent two years in jail on gun charges and charges of selling prescription drugs to an FBI informant.

The museum has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the works in good condition.