Stockholm: Police in Sweden were intensifying a manhunt on Wednesday for at least two thieves who swiped priceless crown jewels from a 13th century cathedral in a sleepy town outside Stockholm before making a getaway aboard a speedboat.
The suspects staged the heist at Strangnas cathedral, one of the oldest diocese in Sweden, around noon on Tuesday while the cathedral was open to visitors and a lunch fair was being held nearby, according to the Guardian.
The local news channel Aftonbladet reported the thieves stole two crowns and an orb, adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls that come from the funeral regalia of Charles IX and Kristina the Elder, dating back to the early 1600s.
“I knew immediately that they were burglars because of the way they were behaving,” said eyewitness Tom Roswell, who happened to be having lunch with his friends in the area at the time of the robbery and is scheduled to get married at the cathedral at the coming weekend.
He said he saw two men run from the cathedral towards a white motorboat that was used as a getaway vessel across Lake Malar, which is the third-largest freshwater lake in Sweden and is replete with thousands of tiny islands and inlets.
“It’s despicable that people would steal from a holy building and a historical building,” Roswell added.
Swedish Police cordoned off Strangnas cathedral and were treating it as a crime scene. Efforts to locate and arrest the suspects were unsuccessful despite a huge manhunt in the region.
Speaking to local media, police spokesperson Thomas Agnevik said it was difficult to attach a value to the missing royal objects due to their uniqueness. The two crowns, encrusted with precious stones, and the golden orb, were originally buried alongside Charles IX and Kristina the Elder in the early 17th century but were since recovered and put on public display.
Catharina, who works at the cathedral, called the theft “an enormous loss in cultural value and economic value”.
Maria Ellior of the Swedish police’s National Operations Department told Sweden’s TT news agency the items would be “impossible to sell”.