Wealthy Nova Scotia thief who filled home with pilfered artifacts, art has died


A man who filled his suburban lakeside home with historic artifacts and art stolen over decades of pilfering so stealthy that many of his targets didn’t even know they’d been victimized has died.John Mark Tillmann was 57.The wealthy Tillmann – he owned both a Porsche and BMW – stole from universities, libraries, museums, antique dealers and private collections across Atlantic Canada.Global NewsHelp us improve Globalnews.caGlobal NewsTake the survey now!Story continues below

Among about 1,300 items seized by police from his two-storey home in Fall River, north of Halifax: Early editions of Daniel Defoe’s 1719 classic “Robinson Crusoe” and a 1758 letter written by Gen. James Wolfe.There was also a spear. A gas mask. A glass lantern. A model canoe. Paintings depicting centuries-old scenes. A brass telescope. An 1819 watercolour from Nova Scotia’s legislative library.Many of the institutions weren’t even aware the items had been stolen.READ MORE: Infamous artifact thief John Tillman granted day parole extensionTillmann was caught when RCMP pulled him over in a July 2012 traffic stop and found the Wolfe letter, which the British general had written to an uncle in Dublin.It had disappeared from Dalhousie University’s archives years earlier.Dalhousie archivist Mike Moosberger said they realized the letter was missing after a 2009 inventory, but no one knew whether it had been stolen or merely misplaced. Similar Wolfe letters have fetched US$18,000 at auction, he said.The letter was returned to Dalhousie after Tillmann’s arrest, but it had been torn and was missing some writing.Moosberger refused to comment Thursday on Tillmann’s death, other than to note “enhanced security protocols … have been put in place” since the theft.“Beyond that, I don’t believe there is anything else to say,” he said.Tillmann died two days before Christmas in Musquodoboit Harbour, according to a certificate of death obtained by CTV, which first reported the story of the infamous art thief’s death this week.Tillmann had been charged with trying to kill his mother in 2009, and also served a two-year sentence for extorting, assaulting and threatening an ex-girlfriend. Media reports have also documented a history of racism and anti-Semitism.But it was the art and artifact thefts that drew the most attention to Tillmann.WATCH: John Mark Tillman sentenced to 9 years in prison

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