This Is a Robbery: Who is former museum guard Richard Abath and where is he now?
People thought he might have been involved in the half a billion dollar heist
Netflix has just released a new true crime docuseries about one of the world’s most expensive unsolved crimes. This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist looks at the 1990 theft in a Boston museum which was worth half a billion dollars. One of main theories surrounding the case is that it was an inside job and somehow a guard, Richard “Rick” Abath, may have been involved.
Over St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 1990, legendary works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and others worth over half a billion dollars were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The new Netflix four-part documentary series covers the leads, dead ends, lucky breaks and speculations that characterised the investigation of this still unsolved mystery.
Thirty years on, the robbers are yet to be identified. Richard Abath, who was working at the museum on the night in question, maintains his innocence and has never been charged. Here’s everything we know about his story.
Richard Abath was a guard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on the night of the world’s biggest art heist
Richard “Rick” Abath was aged 23 in 1990, when the art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum took place. He was working as a guard there, and he was the man who buzzed the thieves in, before being taped up and handcuffed in the basement whilst it all took place.
At the time, he was a self-confessed hippie and a member of a rock band. He was a Berklee School of Music dropout and was working nights at the museum to earn money. He described himself, saying: “I was just this hippie guy who wasn’t hurting anything, wasn’t on anybody’s radar and the next day I was on everybody’s radar for the largest art heist in history.”
According to reports, it was no secret that he didn’t particularly like his job at the museum, nor did he get on with some members of the security staff there. It’s also said that he would often turn up to work high, so when the robbery happened it’s no surprise some eyes fell upon him.
When the robbers arrived, Rick said they were dressed as police men and said they were coming to look into calls of a disturbance. Rick buzzed them in, before the men asked him to step away from his desk and call down the other guard who was working at the time, a man called Randy.
Then the two men quite dramatically announced: “Gentlemen, this is a robbery.” The guards say they had their mouths taped and were placed in handcuffs whilst the robbery took place. It lasted 81 minutes and 13 pieces were taken, most notably Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee and A Lady and Gentleman in Black – both of which were physically cut from their frames.
A number of factors in the robbery made it look as though Richard Abath could have been involved. The door the robbers entered through had been opened just before they arrived, the items that were taken seemed to make it look like they had prior knowledge or it was an inside job and the robbers felt free enough to roam around the museum for nearly an hour and a half.
And, most suspiciously, motion sensors in one of the rooms a painting was stolen from indicated that people had only been close to the art work in there before the robbery had even started – which made people think someone had taken the art down for the thieves to take. The last person to enter that room was Richard Abath.
Where is Richard Abath now?
Despite the suspicion, Richard Abath has never been charged with any involvement in the heist. He has always maintained his innocence, and says he has passed multiple lie detector tests with the FBI.
According to reports, he moved to Vermont in 1999 and graduated college in 2010. He then started a job as a teacher’s aide in Brattleboro. He’s now in his 50s, married to a woman called Diana and has two children.
Looking back at the whole story, in an interview with NPR, he said: “Even if they get the paintings back they’ll never be the same, and I feel horrible about that. I don’t want to be remembered for this alone… I’d like to be remembered for the good things I’ve done. I’m a husband, a father of two really cool kids. But they’re saying it’s half a billion worth of artwork. And ultimately I’m the one who made the decision to buzz them in. It’s the kind of thing most people don’t have to learn to cope with. It’s like doing penance. It’s always there.”
Richard is said to be working on a book about his experiences with the art heist of 1990.
This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, quizzes, drops and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook.