Stolen €1.3m cello mysteriously returned

The cello was made in the 18th century, and was stolen from Gaillard this week at knifepoint

A stolen €1.3million cello has been returned to a famous French cellist after she was mugged at knifepoint in a Paris suburb.

Ophélie Gaillard - who became well-known after appearing at the annual Victoires de la Musique Classique show in 2003 - was mugged in a street in Pantin by a man who stole her cello and mobile phone.

The cello was made in Udine by the renowned Francesco Goffriller in 1737 and owned by CIC Bank who had loaned it to her. It was in a flight case with her “personal bow” – one made by celebrated bowmaker Jean-Marie Persoit in 1825.

On Saturday this weekend (February 17), newspaper Le Figaro said the cellist received an anonymous phone call, telling her the cello was outside her house.

“I found it on a bench behind the house,” she said, confirming the incredible news to Agence France-Presse.

There is no indication of how it got there, with suggestions ranging from an act of generosity from the thief himself, or perhaps an anonymous well-wisher who found the instrument and decided to return it.

“Everything happened very quickly,” Gaillard told journalists. “I saw his knife and I didn’t resist. I immediately gave him my mobile phone and my cello.”

She then launched an online appeal for help, explaining what happened, and asking for people to look out for the  “irreplaceable” and “unique” instrument.

Gaillard feared having to cancel all of her concerts if the cello could not be found, but has now confirmed she will restart her tour.

“The mugging was very violent and I wasn’t able to sleep for two days,” she added. “I am so relieved to have found it. I am waking up from two days of nightmares. It is a miracle.”

The cello “is not an instrument that you could sell on the streets,” a source close to the investigation told AFP. “You would need to know the right people to sell it.”

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