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The Irish police - Gardai - in Athenry, Co Galway, confirmed they are investigating the removal of six Stations of the Cross paintings from St Peter's and Paul's Church in Kiltulla. The theft was discovered on June 21.

The Irish Times reported that the paintings were among 14 gouache studies commissioned in 1945-46 by a private benefactor for the church.

Their report added: "The six Stations - three from either side of the cruciform-shaped church - were reported missing by local priest Martin McNamara. He made the discovery on Saturday night [June 21] when he was locking up."

A key to a side door had gone missing a week earlier and it seems the thieves simply walked into the building and removed the unsecured paintings. The remaining works by the artist have been removed for safe keeping.

ATG was alerted to the theft by Ian Whyte of Whyte's, the Dublin auction house who sold 14 watercolour designs for this exact set for €42,000 in 2005.

Anyone with information should contact Athenry Garda Station on 091-844016, or Garda Confidential Line on 1800-666-111.