Stolen million-euro cello returned to French musician

Ophelie Gaillard in a photo from her Facebook page. PHOTO: FACEBOOK
"Help! My cello was stolen this evening in a red dark flightcase," soloist Ophelie Gaillard wrote in a Facebook post, accompanied by pictures of the instrument. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/OPHÉLIE GAILLARD

FRANCE (AFP) - An 18th-century cello worth more than a million euros (S$1.6 million) was returned to an award-winning French musician on Saturday (Feb 17) after she was robbed at knifepoint in a Paris suburb earlier in the week.

"I received an anonymous call late in the morning saying that my cello was inside a car in front of my house. I found it in the back seat," soloist Ophelie Gaillard told AFP.

One of the car windows was broken and the musician said she quickly grabbed the instrument, which is "in good condition", before notifying police.

An attacker had held her up at knifepoint outside her home on Thursday, forcing her to hand over the cello, as well as her mobile phone, before fleeing on foot in the northeastern suburb of Pantin.

"The theft was very violent, I have not been able to sleep for two days. I am so relieved to have found it. I'm coming out of a two-day nightmare - it's a miracle," she said.

The police confirmed the cello had been found and a source close to the investigation by the BRB unit in charge of armed robberies said: "It's not an instrument that can be sold to a fence on the corner".

After the robbery on Thursday, Gaillard appealed for help from the public on Facebook, posting pictures of the instrument.

The cello, which was loaned to her by CIC bank and is valued at nearly 1.3 million euros, was made in Udine, Italy in 1737 by luthier Francesco Goffriller, son of Venetian master cello-maker Matteo Goffriller.

The cello case also contained her bow, which she said was made by acclaimed 19th-century French bowmaker Jean Pierre Marie Persoit "around 1825 in Paris".

In 2003, Gaillard was named the best new instrumental soloist at the French classical music awards.

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