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Convicted art thief who vandalised Monet painting apologises

Andrew Shannon
Andrew Shannon

A convicted art thief who served four years and nine months for damaging a €10million Claude Monet painting in the National Gallery finally said sorry when confronted by the Sunday World this week.

However, in spite of the apology Andrew Shannon continues to insist that he did not mean to damage the painting, saying: “I’ve gone back to court to clear my name.”

Speaking of the shocking incident at the Gallery on June 29, 2012, Shannon, who has now served his sentence, said he hopes his name will be cleared when the judgement on his appeal is handed down next week.

“I felt I wasn’t given a fair trial,” Shannon told us outside his Ongar, Co. Dublin, home.

“My side wasn’t heard. There was a lot of medical evidence that was not heard. 

“The thing about the gallery was blown out of proportion. I appreciate art. I love art.

“Why would I deliberately damage that painting? It doesn’t make sense. 

“The CCTV saw me falling against the picture. When I collapsed I fell against the picture. 

DISGRACE: CCTV captures the moment Shannon 'fell' on painting

“I’m sorry for what happened, in the sense I couldn’t avoid it. 

“The prosecution said I fell and when you fall forward you put your hand out to protect yourself.

“That’s what I did.

“When I collapsed I put my hand out to protect myself, but I didn’t think I was going to hit the painting.

“The prosecution said I didn’t avoid the painting, but I couldn’t… how could I?”

During his 2014 trial Shannon pleaded not guilty to damaging the Claude Monet painting – entitled Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sail Boat – but a jury of seven women and five men returned a verdict of guilty on that charge following an eight-day trial.

The Court heard Shannon had 48 previous convictions in this and other jurisdictions, some of which were for burglary and theft offences involving antiques.

In November, 2011, he was sentenced in Wicklow Circuit Court for handling stolen property involving maps dating from 1651 with a value of €6,000.

On the day the Monet was damaged, Garda Conor O’Braonain told the court Shannon had entered the gallery just before 11am and had gone to where the painting was on display.

He left and returned a short time later and appeared to fall forward, striking the painting.

The point of impact was above eye level and to the left hand side of the painting.

Shannon said he was dizzy and had fallen forward.

This week Shannon told the Sunday World that he has had six previous heart attacks and that on the day he damaged the painting he afterwards failed a stress test in the hospital designed to discover whether there had been an issue with his heart.

“I have all the evidence… I’ve had six heart attacks in the past, over the years. I collapsed, I went weak and fell against the picture,” he told us.

“I failed a stress test in the hospital afterwards, but that never came up in the court.”

Asked about his previous convictions for the theft of the expensive maps, Shannon insisted he had not known they were stolen.

“I’m not an art thief,” he said.

“You can only inquire into the background at the time and take somebody at their word.

If I buy a piece off you and you tell me it’s coming from a legitimate source then who am I to question that if you give me a receipt.

“I was convicted of theft, it was just a minor thing. 

“Everyone made it out to be something it really wasn’t.”

Asked what his biggest regret is over his brushes with the law, Shannon tearfully said it was the loss of his family.

“I lost my family over this. It’s what happens when you go to prison,they disowned me.”

“People have their own opinions, I can’t change their minds.

“I can only say what happened but nobody gave me a chance.

“Straight away they branded me,” he added.“I would say to people get your facts right before you start judging people. 

“Don’t be listening to one side.”