French art thief attempts suicide in jail cell

7th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

STRASBOURG, France, Jan 7 (AFP) - A 33-year-old French art lover convicted in Switzerland of stealing dozens of works attempted suicide after going on trial in eastern France for similar offences, his lawyer said Friday.

STRASBOURG, France, Jan 7 (AFP) - A 33-year-old French art lover convicted in Switzerland of stealing dozens of works attempted suicide after going on trial in eastern France for similar offences, his lawyer said Friday.

Stephane Breitwieser, described by attorney Thierry Moser as "deeply depressed", tried to hang himself in his jail cell overnight but his cellmate saved him by alerting authorities, Moser said during a break in the trial.

"He's exhausted, it's high time for the trial to be over," the lawyer added. Breitwieser, who describes himself as a passionate art collector, went on trial in Strasbourg on Thursday for the alleged theft of 23 art works in France, Denmark and Austria.

He stunned the art world during his trial in Switzerland in February 2003 by admitting he had stolen more than 200 treasures from museums and galleries across Europe, including masterpieces by Pieter Brueghel, Watteau and Durer.

The works were worth tens of millions of euros. Breitwieser was extradited to France in July from Switzerland, where he had served two years of a four-year term for theft. He faces a maximum three-year jail term if convicted at the end of the hearing in Strasbourg.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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