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Video: Watch as elderly women try to snatch £15k McQueen poster from Belfast's Bullitt hotel

Pensioners make daring raid on iconic print of Hollywood legend at new Bullitt hotel

By Ivan Little

Published 18/10/2016

Video still of two women making off with an iconic print of Hollywood legend at the Bullitt hotel, in Belfast
Video still of two women making off with an iconic print of Hollywood legend at the Bullitt hotel, in Belfast
Video still of woman making off with an iconic print of Hollywood legend at the Bullitt hotel, in Belfast
Journalist Ivan Little with the Steve McQueen portrait hanging once again at the Bullitt hotel in Belfast

Police have vowed there'll be no Great Escape for two granny gangsters who stole a massive £15,000 poster of the late actor Steve McQueen from under the noses of the PSNI in the centre of Belfast at the weekend.

The ageing thieves - one of whom hobbled on a walking stick - made The Getaway from the trendy Bullitt hotel on Sunday night, with the specially-commissioned black-and-white picture of the late American actor, who starred in the movie which gave the Ann Street hot-spot its name.

And now the pensioner pilferers could be featuring in a wanted poster of their own.

CCTV cameras captured every move of their hare-brained heist, which started with them checking out the foyer of the Bullitt hotel, which had only opened two days beforehand.

The footage showed one of the women giving her walking stick and handbag to her accomplice, who opened up her cloak behind her to stop hotel staff seeing her partner-in-crime giving Steve the heave-ho from a wall near the reception.

The past-their-prime pair didn't exactly shoot off like a bullet from the Bullitt and cameras outside the hotel picked them up slowly dragging their ill-gotten gains up Victoria Street, after leaving the hotel through a fire exit.

The bus-pass burglars cheekily walked straight past Musgrave Police Station on Ann Street towards Donegall Quay, where police suspect an ill-prepared fence may have been waiting to take the 6ft by 4ft poster off their hands.

In the Great Escape of course a different sort of fence - a barbed wire one - was the problem for McQueen and his motorbike. But in the Great Escape that wasn't, the fence's car was apparently too small to fit the poster in.

So the senior-citizen crooks abandoned their pin-up of their poster boy - with his dark glasses and cigarette - outside Tedford's restaurant, where staff who had attended the glittering ceremony for the Bullitt's opening, recognised the picture and returned it to the hotel.

The poster will need repairs to minor damage before it is restored to its pride of place in the £4m hotel - which is owned by Bill Wolsey - who also operates the luxury five-star Merchant Hotel nearby, as well as over 40 other establishments across Northern Ireland.

Journalist Ivan Little with the Steve McQueen portrait hanging once again at the Bullitt hotel in Belfast
Journalist Ivan Little with the Steve McQueen portrait hanging once again at the Bullitt hotel in Belfast

Mr Wolsey, who was in the hotel yesterday, told me that he had commissioned the Steve McQueen artwork from an eastern European artist who splits his time between Los Angeles and France.

He said he was a big fan of McQueen and had always admired his work, though he admitted Bullitt wasn't his favourite movie featuring the award-winning actor.

He said he'd had the print in his office for over a year but decided to put it on show in his new hotel because the late actor was always 'current and cool' and that was the image he wanted for the Bullitt.

Police have appealed for help in identifying the women who made off with McQueen. They said they were both in their late-60s and had shoulder-length blonde hair and wore glasses.

The PSNI said one of the women was wearing a distinctive zebra-print jacket.

Detectives are confident that members of the public will be able to come up with names for the light-fingered larcenists, assuming that is, that they weren't weekend visitors from outside Northern Ireland.

The general manager of the Bullitt, Michael Sullivan, said he was shocked to hear that the McQueen print had gone.

"We only put it up on Friday and couldn't believe that someone had stolen it," he said.

"We were even more surprised to see on the CCTV pictures that the thieves were two well-dressed women who weren't exactly your stereotypical criminals.

"I had seen them earlier in the hotel having tea and a drink and they didn't look suspicious or drunk.

"Yet what they did was quite brazen and it wouldn't have been that easy for them to remove it from the wall.

"The print was hanging near the reception desk but our staff there were checking in some guests. And anyway, the last thing you would expect would be for someone to steal something so big."

After he gets a face-lift, the mean and moody McQueen will be back in his starring role in the Bullitt, though he'll get a security makeover.

The PSNI press office yesterday took the unusual step of insisting that they were treating the theft as 'genuine', after a number of English journalists rang them to express surprise that there was a hotel in Belfast called Bullitt, given the city's troubled past.

"There was also a sense among the cynics that the story may have been something that sounded like Bullitt but this was no publicity stunt," said one police source.

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