Art Heist Rocks Bora Laskin Law Library

Lily Hassall (2L)

“Roots” by Holly Pichette, 2006.

A break-in. Stolen electronics. A painting, commissioned to honour a deceased classmate, torn from its moorings. This is not a fact pattern—it happened right here in the U of T Faculty of Law.

On October 6, staff arrived to what they thought was just another day at the Bora Laskin Law Library. What they found was the site of a theft. The missing items included an iPad, a computer, a book scanner, and, perplexingly, a very large painting.

All of the items were taken from the area near the western end of the library services desk. The iPad and book scanner were on a trolley, while the computer and the painting were directly across from the service desk.

How the crime was carried out remains unclear. The security footage of the main exits contained no traces of the thieves. Head Librarian Gian Medves reasoned that because the items were located so close to the services desk, the crime must have happened after hours. However, there were no signs of forced entry or exit.

Medves also speculated that this was simply a crime of opportunity. The painting, however, was bolted to the wall, which might suggest that the thieves came prepared with tools. Further, the fact that the perpetrators evaded the security cameras could mean they had prior knowledge of where the cameras are located.

The history of the painting adds another layer of mystery. The piece, entitled “Roots,” was commissioned by the class of 2000 to honour the memory of one of their classmates. MaryAnne Maghekan King, who specialized in aboriginal law and was practicing in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, passed away unexpectedly in November 2004. The painting was produced by Indigenous artist Holly Pichette and unveiled at a reception at the law school in 2006.

Class Photo of MaryAnne Maghekan King, 2000.

When reached for comment, the SLS President from 1999-2000 said he could remember neither King nor the painting.

At present, the investigation is on hold while authorities attempt to value the painting. The valuation will determine whether the matter is handled by the Campus Police or the Toronto Police Services.

In the meantime, the wall that housed the painting remains empty, scarred by deep gouges where the bolts were previously installed, crying out for justice.