Three of Sweden’s crown jewels were stolen on Tuesday in broad daylight and the thieves are still at large. The golden, jewel-encrusted crowns and orb had been in an armed and locked display at the Strängnäs Cathedral.
On Tuesday, burglars smashed the glass which set off the alarm, but the burglars still managed to steal the two crowns and the orb. The church said in a statement that there was no violence or threat of violence involved in the burglary.
The Church of Sweden said in a statement, “The objects, which are of high historical and economic value, were stored according to prevailing safety regulations in locked and armed displays which at the time of the theft were open to visitors.” One witness who saw the burglary unfold told Swedish media that he was eating lunch when he saw two people running towards a boat, which they then sped away in.
Two black bicycles, which police suspect to be stolen as well, were found near the shores of Lake Malar, which leads police officers to suspect that the thieves left the church on these bicycles and later disappeared on a boat, leaving the bicycles behind. Swedish police said in a statement, “Several people then left … in a boat just below the church.”
While police have attempted to locate the culprits, they have not been successful. They have used a search helicopter in hopes of finding the culprits and sent out divers to look for clues within the lake. Police are also investigating “any boat that may seem interesting” as the culprits may have switched over to another watercraft, police spokesman Thomas Agnevik told Expressen.
A police spokesman says that the search is highly complicated as Lake Malar is crowded with islands and ringed by towns and cities. He adds that the thieves could have traveled anywhere from Stockholm in the east to Arboga in the west, which are some 80 miles apart by boat. “Police said the thieves could have fled further on jet skis, adding it was only a theory,” the AP reports.
Both the larger crown and the orb were made for King Karl IX’s funeral at Strängnäs Cathedral in 1611. The smaller crown was made for the funeral of King Karl IX’s wife, Kristina in 1625.
There has been speculation as to what the burglars plan on doing with the three historic artifacts as they are so recognizable. It is unlikely they will be able to sell them, but all three missing artifacts will be registered with Interpol.
“Images are being shown in the media. It’s simply not possible to sell these kinds of items. So, you can only wonder what their intentions are, and how much they know about these crowns,’ Maria Ellior from the Swedish Police National Operations Department told news agency TT. “Registering the theft with Interpol means ‘even international police will be on their toes,’ she added, noting that the theft was likely well planned.”
In 2013, a similar burglary occurred with a 16th century Swedish royal scepter and crown that had been stolen from the Västerås Cathedral. Later the royal scepter and crown were recovered in a pair of trash bags on the side of a highway.