PABLO NICASSO; Five Masterpieces Stolen by Lone Thief in EUR500M Art Heist

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A LONE thief carried out one of the biggest art raids in history yesterday - stealing masterpieces worth EUR497million.

The five canvases, including works by Picasso and Matisse, were stolen in the early hours from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.

CCTV footage from inside the gallery shows a hooded intruder described as heavily disguised and burly. He got in by smashing a window of "reinforced glass" and then removing the padlock securing the frame.

As investigators tried to fathom how he beat elaborate systems to combat such raids, it emerged the museum's security set-up had been broken in some parts of the building since March 30.

Paris mayor Bernard Delanoe said that replacement parts had been ordered but had not been received from the supplier.

The thief took Picasso's cubist Dove with Green Peas, painted in 1912, Matisse's 1905 Pastoral, Braque's Olive Tree near Estaque, Modigliana's Woman with a Fan and Lger's Still Life with Chandeliers.

French government officials valued the artworks at around EUR116million - but experts say they could make around EUR497million. But they could not be sold on the open market.

The museum, which opened in 1961 and houses 8,000 works of art, was cordoned off with red and white tape. A note on the door of the building across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower said shut "for technical reasons".

At night there had been three guards on duty but the theft was not discovered until 6.50am yesterday when a watchman found the smashed window and busted padlock.

A museum source said: "They are wonderful works, the very best the artists produced. Police are speaking to all of us in case people on the inside helped the burglar." One detective said: "We have not seen a theft on this scale for decades. …