Eagle-eyed police crack picture theft with Woodford Green discovery

Jon Astrop's stolen paintings, worth more than £20,000, were found in Woodford Green

Jon Astrop's stolen paintings, worth more than £20,000, were found in Woodford Green - Credit: Archant

A painter was reunited with his life’s works, worth more than £20,000, when a policeman made a chance spot of a stolen van in Woodford Green.

Jon Astrop, 52, had been left “devastated” when more than 70 of his paintings were taken in the van he used for exhibitions and was facing the prospect of never seeing them again.

But luckily for him, police officers were able to track the stolen vehicle down to Armstrong Avenue through CCTV.

Mr Astrop, of North Finchley, said: “It was such a massive relief.”

He had stayed at a friend’s house, parking his van in School Way, North Finchley, on January 24.

But when he was ready to leave at 7am the next morning, he was shocked to realise that the van had disappeared.

He said: “It took a minute to sink in that it was gone. I kept thinking I parked it somewhere else. It was devastating to think all my work had gone.”

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Mr Astrop has been painting for more than 40 years and grew up in an artistic family with his father who worked as a commercial artist and his mother who drew fashion drawings.

He said: “I absolutely love painting. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t paint. It’s a calling.”

But within half an hour of an appeal appearing on a television news programme, he received a call from the ­police that a Newham officer had seen the van and found it parked in Armstrong Avenue.

His van, along with his art, undamaged, was ­returned to him the following day.

He said: “When I was at my lowest point I was trying to work out how I could try and replace everything.

“But when I got that call saying they were found, I was so happy.”

Police are still hunting for those responsible. Det Sgt Dan Quigley of Barnet Police said: “We are hoping that the use of forensic evidence will assist us with identifying the suspects.”

n Anyone with information about the theft should call the police on 101.