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What Happened To Vjeran Tomic, The Spider-Man of Paris?

The greatest heist stories will always capture imaginations, and the movements of a man called Vjeran Tomic – AKA the real-life Spider-Man – who carried out a spate of art and jewellery robberies in Parisian high-society has been made into an equally high-octane documentary.

The Netflix film – called Vjeran Tomic: The Spider-Man of Paris – has the man himself discussing his life as a cat burglar, up to his most daring heist of all: raiding five paintings worth a combined total €110 million from the Musée d’Art Moderne (MAM) in Paris in 2010.

But what led Tomic to get involved with high-profile art theft and what happened to him afterwards?

a person jumping off a building


The backstory

Sent from Paris to live with his grandma in Mostar, Bosnia, at the age of 10, Tomic pulled off his first heist: he broke into a library, climbed through a window and stole two books that were a few hundred years old.

When he arrived back in Paris a year later, he spent his teens running around the streets of the French capital – a favourite location being the famous cemetery Pere Lachaise – and learning to scale the walls of the mausoleums, teaching himself an early form of parkour.

From mausoleums to apartments; he later learned to break into wealthy homes to steal their valuables, flogging the jewellery at markets afterwards – according to The New Yorker, he even says he stole gold buttons from the Egyptian Royal Family at one point.

He upgraded his approach, and in 2000, he used a crossbow with ropes to sneak into an apartment – with the occupants inside asleep – and stole artworks including two Renoir works, a Derain, an Utrillo and a Braque, said to be worth more than a million Euros.

tournage du documentaire

Gael Turpo

The MAM heist

In 2004, he met Jean Michel Corvez, a gallery owner, and over the years, Corvez “ordered” items for Tomic to steal, which he would then sell on to clients, and soon it moved from jewellery to paintings.

One day in passing, Corvez mentioned that he’d love to own a Léger, and Tomic mentioned he’d been eying one up in the Musée d’Art Moderne, and that he thought he could get in through unscrewing a less-than secure window.

From May 14, 2010, Tomic spent six nights dabbing the window frame with paint stripper, exposing the screws, taking them out (and replacing them with fake ones made of clay). On the morning of May 20, he was ready. He took out the window easily with suction pads and with bolt cutters, he cut the lock on the grate and dodged the motion sensors.

He then left, he told The New Yorker, because he wanted to wait to see if a silent alarm had been activated. It had not. So, in he went again, and took the Léger “Still Life with Candlestick” painting by removing it from its frame. But then he looked around and saw a Picasso (“Pastoral”), Modigliani’s “Woman with a Fan, “Pigeon with Peas,” by Picasso, and “Olive Tree Near l’Estaque,” by Braque and he took them all. He almost took Modigliani’s “Woman with Blue Eyes, but it “spoke” to him, warning him off. He later said: “When I went to get it off the wall, it told me, ‘If you take me, you will regret it the rest of your life.’”

The other pieces were apparently happy to be lifted, and in two trips, the haul was secured.

When the news hit the international press, the French authorities were determined to find the paintings and the perpetrator. They were given a tip-off by a skateboarder who had noticed the shady figure of Tomic hanging around MAM before the theft.

However, six months went by and Tomic was still roaming the streets of Paris. It wasn’t until an informant passed on his name that the police began to surveil Tomic, and he wasn’t exactly staying underground, as he was planning a heist on the Pompidou centre.

There was still no arrest – even, hilariously, when Tomic’s actual phone voicemail message was: “If you want to buy paintings or works of art, or exceptional jewellery, do not hesitate to contact me. Among the many paintings, there are five that are extremely expensive” – and Corve began to get spooked, as selling the pictures even on the black market was proving incredibly difficult. Corvez then passed some of the paintings on to Yonathan Birn to store them.

spiderman of paris


Tomic was eventually caught on May 12, 2011, when, short on funds, he robbed another apartment and was literally caught in the act by police. In a police interview, he admitted to stealing the five artworks.

The trial took place in January 2017, and Tomic was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison, while Corvez and Birn got seven and six years, respectively. They also had to pay the City of Paris €104 million in compensation.

Despite Birn claiming he destroyed the pictures then threw them in the bin, there are those who believe he’s lying – either way, the pictures have never been found again.

Tomic is still in prison, and expected to serve his sentence until 2025. In prison, he is trying his hand at illustrating, apparently, and would also like to open a sculpting studio to create his own artworks.

Vjeran Tomic: The Spider-Man of Paris streams on Netflix from October 20.

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