Dutch police have arrested a man on suspicion of stealing two valuable paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals from different museums last year.
The paintings, however, remain missing.
Police spokeswoman Maren Wonder on Tuesday posted on Twitter that a 58-year-old man was arrested at his home in the Dutch town of Baarn, 40 kilometres south-east of Amsterdam. His identity was not released, in line with Dutch privacy guidelines.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t yet recovered the paintings and the investigation is continuing,” Wonder said. She called the arrest “a really important step in the investigation".
Van Gogh's The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring (1884) was snatched from the Singer Laren museum, east of Amsterdam, in the early hours of March 30 last year. The museum was closed at the time, owing to a coronavirus lockdown.
The oil-on-paper painting shows a person standing in a garden surrounded by trees with a church tower in the background.
The Hals work Two Laughing Boys (1626) was stolen about five months later from Museum Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden in Leerdam, 60km south of Amsterdam.
The van Gogh painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum when a burglar smashed through reinforced glass doors to get into the Singer Laren, which is fewer than 10km from the town where the suspect was arrested.
Singer Laren spokeswoman Esther Driessen welcomed the arrest and said she hopes it leads detectives to the painting.
“The most important thing is that the painting returns as quickly as possible to the Groninger Museum, where it belongs,” she said.
The Hofje van Mevrouw van Aerden had no comment on the arrest. Police said last year that the same Hals painting was stolen in 1988 together with a work by Jacob van Ruisdael. Both were recovered three years later.
In 2011, the two paintings were again stolen and recovered six months later.