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Basel bird man Feather thief behind bars after CHF6 million museum raids

Some feathers of rare or extinct birds can fetch thousands of dollars at auction


A man who caused millions of francs of damage stealing bird feathers from natural history museum exhibits has been handed a three-year jail sentence in Basel. The 45-year-old stole 10,000 feathers during a seven-year rampage before he was caught.

The Basel court heard how he had raided museums in Basel and Neuchatel in Switzerland, as well as Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and Berlin in Germany, and Vienna, Austria. On some occasions he ripped off whole wings from stuffed bird exhibits.

The final bill for the damage caused was estimated at CHF6 million ($6.2 million), a figure that was inflated by ruining exhibits of extinct birds. He was able to get away with the thefts for so long by impressing museums with his ornithological expertise.

He was eventually caught raiding a museum in Munich. When his apartment was searched it was found stuffed with some 10,000 stolen feathers.

Although the court recognized that the man had not committed the offences for his own enrichment, it nevertheless sentenced him to three years in prison – two years suspended. The museums had been exploited and harmed whilst fulfilling a valuable public function, the court said.

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