Lights, action! Man is caught on train TV stealing viola

Lights, action! Man is caught on train TV stealing viola


norman lebrecht

September 16, 2015

Hot on the tail of the Halifax violin heist, we have footage of a man stealing a viola on a train from London to Dover.

He’s about the least competent thief you could imagine. The judge released Stephen Tillyer, an insurance salesman, with a suspended jail sentence and costs. The viola is valued at £300,000.

It belongs to London Symphony Orchestra principal viola, Edward Vanderspar.

Viola thief


  • V.Lind says:

    where was Mr. Vanderspar during this caper? What was he doing leaving a valuable viola (if that is not a contradiction in terms :)) in an empty carriage?

  • Jonathan M. Dunsby says:

    Mr V said in the statement that he had dozed off reading a book but there’s no sign of him here.

    • Ppellay says:

      From what I remember of the original story, he woke up with a start when the announcement came through that the train was stopping at his home station, and he hurriedly left, accidentally leaving the viola behind. What we see here happened after Mr. V. left.

  • Peter Freeman says:

    Amazing! I wonder whether police were waiting on the platform, or what.

  • 110 says:

    Naive owner, stupid thief.Immagine a dimond dealer behaving irresponsibly in this manner .
    How a musician forgets his instrument.After years , for a musician, the instrument becomes part of the body.
    From the video it looks as if the thief new precisely where to search.
    How come?

    • Dominique says:

      While I certainly agree with you on “the instrument becomes part of the body” part, I could hardly compare diamond dealer with an orchestra musician. Dealer interested in selling his goods, while mostly overworked orchestra musicians shlepping his “diamond” mornings and evenings, year after year, hundreds and hundreds of rehearsals and gigs throughout orchestral career. It’s like carrying your wallet or the keys, which I think many of us have been missing or displacing at some point.

    • SVM says:

      “After years, for a musician, the instrument becomes part of the body.”

      Indeed, but you might still, very occasionally, accidentally slam your hand in a car door or something. Before condemning Mr Vanderspar, we should consider the number of occasions when he and his viola made it from A to B without any mishap.

  • Janis says:

    I wonder sometimes what the best response is if one should see an unattended musical instrument on a train. If I were to go past one left on a commuter train seat, I’d pick it up and take it, too — and bring it to the lost and found, or get the attention of a conductor. If it were late at night, I might indeed end up taking it home for the night. I’d hope that whoever saw any surveillance video wouldn’t come to the conclusion that I was stealing anything.

    • Gerhard says:

      I wouldn’t count on that. If you want to be safe for yourself in these days of continuous surveillance, alert some employee if you can. If not, tough luck for the owner. But under no circumstances touch the thing.