This Montreal Museum Heist Was Straight Out of Hollywood—and No One Was Ever Caught
“The Skylight Caper,” which happened in Montreal in 1972, remains the greatest art crime in Canadian history. 17 paintings remain missing, and no suspects have ever been detained.
In the early hours of the morning on September 4, 1972, three men climbed onto the roof of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, opened a skylight, and rappelled into the galleries below. The ensuing theft was one of the rare instances in the history of art crime when reality matched the antics normally dreamt up by Hollywood.
The criminals tied up three guards, fired a shotgun into the ceiling to show they meant business, and got busy pillaging and plundering. While a tripped alarm cut the shopping spree short, the thieves made off with a bundle of fine jewelry as well as 18 paintings, including a Rembrandt.
Eighteen years before the notorious Gardner Museum theft, the Skylight Caper, as this heist came to be known, was one of the biggest art thefts to date and it remains the greatest art crime in Canadian history.