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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Thieves steal fake Munch artworks
Edvard Munch's The Scream
Munch's The Scream is still missing after being stolen last year
Masked thieves in Norway have stolen what they thought were three Edvard Munch paintings - but they turned out to be worthless copies.

Two unarmed men burst into Oslo's Hotel Continental, threatened staff and removed three pictures from the walls.

But the hotel had swapped the originals with duplicates after two real Munch works were stolen from the Munch Museum in the city almost a year ago.

"It's a real fiasco for the thieves," hotel manager Siv Lunde Kolrud said.

The hotel's art collection includes 12 Munch originals, which were "in a very safe place", Ms Lunde Kolrud said.

These are amateurs - they made a fool out of themselves
Vidar Hjulstad
Oslo police

The pictures stolen on Wednesday were actually photographs of The Vampire, Self-Portrait and Melancholy, she said, adding that the frames were the only things of value.

The men who raided the Munch Museum last August are not suspected of carrying out this theft, police spokesman Vidar Hjulstad said.

"They are not like the thieves from the real Munch Museum, these are amateurs," he said. "They made a fool out of themselves."

An abandoned getaway car was found about a kilometre (0.6 miles) away.

After the theft last August, security was stepped up and five arrests have been made.

But The Scream and Madonna have not been found and the Munch Museum remained closed until last month.

In March, three lesser Munch works were taken from another hotel but were recovered the following day.

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