In one of the most daring art heists in Australian history, a thief or thieves took a world-famous Picasso from the walls of the NGV. The case has never been cracked. Can we get to the bottom of one of Australia's greatest mysteries?

The heist

Picasso’s Weeping Woman was mounted on the wall of the National Gallery of Victoria when its doors closed at 5pm on Saturday, August 2, 1986. When the doors opened again the next morning, it was gone. The thieves left a calling card in its place. It looked like the regular “location cards” used by the gallery, so, at first, staff thought the painting had simply been moved. The theft went unnoticed until the press received a tip-off on Monday, August 4. “My jaw dropped,” says Race Mathews. At the time of the theft, Mathews was both minister for the arts and police in Victoria.


The tip-off came in the form of a ransom letter, addressed to Mathews -- unkindly titled “Rank Mathews” -- from a group calling itself the “Australian Cultural Terrorists” (ACT).