Thief who stole artefacts, paintings from churches jailed

43-year-old Eric Sapiano, of Sliema, stole a number of paintings and artefacts from several churches

A thief with a penchant for robbing churches has been jailed for seven years and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment after admitting to having stolen several objects of cultural value from various churches over the past four years. 

The artefacts stolen by 43-year-old Eric Sapiano, of Sliema, included a painting by Antonio Falzon dating back to 1861, which had been stolen from Ta’ Ġieżu Church in Valletta in February 2012, an antique vase taken from Stella Maris parish church, in Sliema in August 2014, a silver chalice stolen in August 2014 from the Safi parish church and a silver vase which had gone missing from St Paul’s Church in Valletta in February 2015. His final theft was that of another vase taken from St Publius parish church in Floriana in April 2015.

Sapiano was arrested in 2015 after police found a number of the stolen items in his possession. The man had previously been convicted in 2012 of stealing an 1812 painting of the Madonna by Giorgio Hyzler from Ta' Giezu Church in Valletta, having reportedly admitted that he had done so in an "act of rage."

Prosecuting Inspector Saviour Baldacchino had informed the court that the stolen items had been recovered. 

Sapiano's probation officer recommended that the accused be imprisoned. 

Magistrate Aaron Bugeja handed down a seven year prison sentence, also ordering that a psychological assessment of the accused be made with a view to drawing up a treatment plan.