VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Whoever stole C$2 million ($2 million) in art from a Vancouver museum is likely trying to sell the collection, not melt it down for the gold, as had first been feared, police said on Tuesday.
Investigators also believe last month's theft of jewelry and art, including pieces by renowned Canadian Haida artist Bill Reid, was locally planned, although they have not entirely ruled out an international art theft ring.
Art experts had had initially feared the thieves targeted the 15 items at the Museum of Anthropology because they were made of gold, and intended to melt them down to sell the metal, which would be worth about C$15,000.
Investigators now believe the thieves are trying to sell the collection in the Vancouver area as art because "it is common knowledge that the art is worth far more in its original form than melted down," the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.
"We have reached a point in our investigation where we can make a strong assumption that the items are still here." RCMP Constable Annie Linteau.
The Mounties also said the C$50,000 reward posted by the University of British Columbia had been increased with an additional reward from the museum's insurer, but did not say by how much.
The thieves who broke into the university-run Museum of Anthropology on May 24, took 12 items crafted by Reid, who died in 1998. They also stole three gold Mexican necklaces.
Like Reid's other art, the stolen works were inspired by the legends and stories of the Haida people of the Queen Charlotte Islands on Canada's Pacific coast.
Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson