DUTCH police have recovered eight paintings stolen from Robert Noortman’s gallery in Maastricht in 1987. The works, which included valuable works by Renoir and Pissarro, were traced to two small towns in the south of Holland after an alleged middleman in Dubai made an attempt to sell the paintings back to the insurers for a reported €5m (£4.5m).

The middleman contacted the private detective Ben Zuidema, who was originally hired to investigate the theft, and apparently offered him €1m to facilitate the deal.

But instead Mr Zuidema passed the information to police investigators and the eight works were then recovered in a sting operation.

Three suspects were arrested: a 45-year-old German man who lives in Dubai, his 62-year-old mother from Belgium and a 66-year-old man from Walem.

The paintings were by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, David Teniers, Willem van de Velde (two works), Jan Brueghel the Younger, Eva Gonzalès and Paul-Desiré Trouillebert. A ninth missing painting from the same collection is believed to have been destroyed.

Robert Noortman, who died of a heart attack aged 60 in 2007, had insured the works shortly before their disappearance and received a payout of 5m guilders (£2m) after the theft.

Noortman Master Paintings were bought by Sotheby’s in June 2006, who acquired all the assets of the business including $26m of debts.