About £50,000 worth of artwork by Belfast artist Terry Bradley has been stolen after a “well-planned” raid.
It is estimated that between 80 and 100 pieces of art were taken from a pop-up gallery in the city centre.
These included original canvases worth up to £10,000. A large original painting of Batman, worth an estimated £2,500, was also taken in the burglary.
Ashley Bradley, the artist’s wife, said they believed thieves gained access after one hid in the gallery overnight.
She added that Mr Bradley was “devastated” by the thefts.
“Terry puts his heart and soul into his work,” she said. “They’re a moment in time. The original pieces cannot be replaced.
“Some of the original drawings have been ordered by people for Christmas – they’re all gone. So much stuff has been paid off by customers and we’re going to work to replace what we can.
“Terry is completely floored by what’s happened.”
Staff at the gallery have said they will work hard to replace the stolen artworks. Gayle Williamson said she was heartbroken when she arrived at work this morning: “I was speechless. What can you say?
“It’s horrendous and I wasn’t expecting it in the mouth of Christmas, but we’ll do our best to replace what orders we have.”
Police said they are appealing for witnesses to the burglary that took place on Chichester Street between 18:00 GMT on Wednesday and 10:00 on Thursday.
Mrs Bradley said the family believed the gallery had been targeted by people who “knew what they were doing”.
“We think someone had hidden in the gallery and opened the back door,” she said.
“I was in last night with my daughter at about 21:30. We hope somebody wasn’t in there with us.
“It would have taken a long time. These are big and heavy pieces – I can only lift one picture at a time.
“My sister opened at 10 o’clock this morning and it was all gone.”
Mrs Bradley, who vowed that the gallery would re-open on Friday, urged anyone who has any information to come forward.
“We’re going straight back to work. Nobody was hurt. Hopefully we have enough time before Christmas to replace what can be replaced.
“My hope is a fan of Terry will see this art being passed off. I know they’ll be outraged when they hear this has happened.
“If someone sees them, they will know what they are and hopefully come forward with information so we can get them back.”
Stolen artwork by Mr Bradley has been recovered before.
In 2014, two paintings, worth £6,000 each, were taken from a shop in south Belfast. Police found them after a tip-off.
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