Thief arrived on motorcycle and smashed through reinforced glass doors, escaping with The Parsonage Garden tucked under arm

A Dutch crime show has aired security footage revealing how an art thief smashed his way through reinforced glass doors at a museum with a sledgehammer, raced into the building and ran out with a precious Vincent van Gogh painting tucked under his right arm.

The thief, who arrived on a motorcycle, stole Van Gogh’s The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884 from the Singer Laren Museum in the early hours of 30 March.

Nobody has been arrested in the theft and the painting, which was on loan from another Dutch museum, the Groninger Museum, when it was stolen, is still missing.

Police withheld other footage from inside the museum in Laren, a town east of Amsterdam, to protect their investigation. They also did not air video from outside the museum of the thief leaving.

The Singer Laren managing director, Evert van Os, stressed the footage did not show all of the burglary. “The burglar broke through a number of doors and several layers of security that had been approved by security experts,” Van Os said. “The footage released does not therefore allow any conclusions to be drawn as to the quality of security at Singer Laren.”

Police said Wednesday that 56 tips streamed in from the public as a result of the show. They said it was not clear if the thief acted alone. Police are also seeking information about a white van filmed driving past the museum.

The 25cm by 57cm oil-on-paper painting shows a person standing in a garden surrounded by trees with a church tower in the background. “It looks like they very deliberately targeted this one Van Gogh painting,” said police spokeswoman Maren Wonder.

The artwork dates to a time when the artist had moved back to his family in a rural area of the Netherlands and painted the life he saw there, including his famous work The Potato Eaters, in mostly sombre tones.

Wonder called for museum visitors to share with police any photos or video they took in the museum in the days before it closed down, to see if anyone was surveilling it beforehand. “People can help if they now realise that another visitor was behaving suspiciously,” she said.

Van Os said the museum would draw lessons from the theft but “at the moment, however, the only thing that matters is that the footage should yield useful tips and that the painting should be returned undamaged to the Groninger Museum as soon as possible”.