Stolen art returned to Auckland Uni

Three priceless art works and manuscripts stolen from the University of Auckland over Christmas have been returned.

Thieves stole a $100,000 Charles Goldie painting, seven Colin McCahon poems worth $7000 and an unbound copy of the Oxford Lectern Bible valued at $100,000 from the library's special collections room while the university library was closed during the Christmas holidays.

A university spokeswoman said the items would be back on display soon but the Oxford Lectern Bible needed some repair work before it could be returned to display.

On Saturday, the New Zealand Herald reported an "elaborate deal" between police and an accused criminal had been brokered in an attempt to recover the items.

Police arranged for minor charges to be dropped against the man, who arranged the return of the artefacts.

The man, who appeared in Auckland District Court last week, was not involved in the theft but had learned who had taken the items and where they were.

Through a series of e-mails, the man said he had learned where the items were and that police would never find them.

The negotiation was conducted in secret, and included a show of "good faith" when the man returned the Oxford Lectern Bible.

The deal was concluded last week with the return of the Goldie.

Following the theft, the university increased security on significant art works and other valuable items in its collections.

The spokeswoman said a review of its security arrangements meant the university would be able to protect its collections while enabling access to them by the university community and visitors.