HALIFAX—Artwork swiped from a Halifax alehouse has been returned from Ontario thanks to a social media manhunt that protected the thief’s identity even as it appealed to his better angels.
A framed photo depicting the glittering Titanic museum in Belfast, Ireland, disappeared after a wake on the night of Jan. 6 at the Old Triangle Irish Alehouse near the city’s waterfront.
Video images taken after last call showed a middle-aged man pausing to look at the photo and then lifting it off the wall and placing it under his coat, said bar manager Erik Greiner.
“He decided to liberate the picture … and proceeded on his way,” he said.
The photo had been purchased by bar co-owners Cheryl and Brian Doherty several years ago.
Brian Doherty said it had sentimental value, as he grew up in Northern Ireland and he and his wife had personally chosen the photo of the museum—which looks like the hulls of four ships—to hang in the popular pub.
“We were particularly annoyed by this because … we collected it ourselves,” he said.
When the owners and staff considered ways to bring about the picture’s return, they decided against posting the video or contacting police.
Instead, they opted to issue a plea on the pub’s widely followed social media platforms on Twitter and Facebook to give the man a chance to return the photo.
It was addressed to “the guy with the glasses who stole the Titanic picture off the wall,” and said, “please return it, no questions or recriminations.”
It noted a failure to act could result in the police being contacted, and ended with, “Thank you.”
Greiner says the owners considered the man may have had a family and a job that could be hurt by his actions, and they wanted to give him a second chance.
“We didn’t want to bring him shame and embarrassment personally and professionally,” he said.
The tweet was posted at 2 p.m. on Friday, and the next day a woman came in and asked to speak to managers. She said she’d been part of the group and knew who might have been involved.
Greiner said she contacted the man who took the photo and he decided to send it back in the mail.
“It was a great restoration for us,” said Greiner. “It shows the power of social media and the compassion that can be shown.”
“We didn’t want to get on a high horse and go ‘Oh, somebody stole from us,’ and a big witch hunt,” he said. “We just wanted the picture back and to be restored to the pub as quickly as possible.”
He said the bar won praise for its gentle approach on social media.
“We had good karma over it because we didn’t go down a hostile route. We didn’t go down an aggressive route seeking its return,” he said.
“Hopefully, he’ll learn not to do that sort of thing again.”
From The Canadian Press