BOSTON — Twenty-five years after the famed art heist at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, law enforcement officials released new surveillance video Thursday showing an unauthorized visitor entering the museum the night before the robbery.
Authorities hope the never-before seen video will spark leads to help recover the 13 pieces of stolen artwork, worth at least $500 million.
The low-resolution video — captured by museum security cameras — shows a security guard appearing to hit an intercom button, then to grant access to a man who can be seen in the museum’s reception area at about 12:49 a.m. on March 17, 1990, almost exactly 24 hours before the heist.
The man is also seen getting out of a car matching the general description of one reported to be parked outside the museum minutes before the theft. He uses the same rear entrance as the thieves, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, which released the video.
The stolen artwork includes Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.”
“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,” Ortiz said in a prepared statement.
Ortiz said officials are hoping the public may be able to help authorities identify the unauthorized visitor or the car seen in the video.
“I’m very hopeful that it will generate information that can lead us back to our paintings,” said Anthony Amore, the museum’s director of security.
The similar circumstances of what’s shown on the video and what happened the night of the robbery — including the man entering through the same rear door as the thieves — have raised questions about whether the man was practicing for the actual robbery.
Ortiz said in an interview that the theory of a dry run for the robbery “makes sense,” but is only speculation at this point.
“The speculation is with reason, but we don’t have any specific information that that’s what happened,” she said.
A $5 million reward has been offered by the museum for information that leads to the recovery of the stolen artwork in good condition.
Authorities have repeatedly said that on March 18, 1990, two white men dressed in Boston police uniforms gained entrance to the museum by telling the security guard at the watch desk that they were responding to a report of a disturbance.
Against museum policy, the guard allowed the men into the museum. The thieves handcuffed the museum’s two guards on duty and put them in separate areas of the museum’s basement.
No weapons were seen during the robbery and no panic button was activated. The video surveillance footage from the night of the robbery was taken by the thieves.
No one has ever been charged in the heist.
In 2013, authorities said investigators believe they know who the thieves were, but they would not identify them.
They said the robbers belonged to a criminal organization based in New England and the mid-Atlantic states and took the art to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region in the years after the theft. They were offered for sale in Philadelphia about a decade ago and have not been seen since, the FBI said at the time.