By Eloise Horsfield

WHEN four million euros of paintings – including a Salvador Dali – were stolen from a private collection in 2002, the police had nothing to go on apart from a mystery fingerprint and a hunch.

While it was obvious the thieves knew the robbed house in Avila well, police could not gather enough evidence to nail anybody and the crime was left unsolved.

But nine years later, one of the collector’s own sons has been arrested for assault and – crucially – had his fingerprint taken.

To the joy of the detectives, when they entered his details into their database, they discovered his fingerprints were linked to the robbery.

After trailing him back to his home in Valdemoro, near Madrid, where the family had moved after the collector and his ex-wife had split, they found the haul.

Police arrested the collector’s ex-wife and three sons, who have since explained they stole the paintings to ensure they would inherit their father’s collection.

As well as Dali’s Transcendental human performance, the stolen hoard included portraits by Valencian painter Joaquin Sorolla and sixteenth-century artist Hernan Cortes.

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