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In 1961, a thief broke into the National Gallery in London and committed the most sensational art heist in British history. He stole the museum’s much prized painting, The Duke of Wellington by Francisco Goya. Despite unprecedented international attention and an unflagging investigation, the case was not solved for four years, and even then, only because the culprit came forward voluntarily.
Kempton Bunton, an elderly gentleman, claimed he executed the theft armed with only a toy gun, a disguise purchased for five shillings, and a getaway car inadvertently provided by a drunkard. Shortly after turning himself in, Bunton also invoked language in an obscure law to maintain his innocence, despite the confession. He did not allege that the confession was false, but rather that stealing the painting did not constitute a crime because he intended to return it. On account of this improbable defense strategy, the story took another twist, resulting in a bizarre courtroom drama and extraordinary verdict.
Over fifty years later, Alan Hirsch decided to explore the facts behind this historic case and uncovered shocking new evidence that both solved the crime and deepened the mystery.
Alan Hirsch, a writer and Visiting Professor at Williams College, received a J.D. from Yale Law School and an M.A. from Williams College in the History of Art. He moonlights as a trial consultant and expert witness on police interrogations and false confessions across the nation. In addition to numerous works of legal scholarship, Alan has written For the People: What the Constitution Really Says About Your Rights (Free Press, 1998) and Talking Heads: Political Talk Shows and Their Star Pundits (St. Martin’s, 1991). His writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Newsday, and the Village Voice. He lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts.