A spate of thefts from churches in south Estonia this summer has forced police form a special investigation group, local daily newspaper Postimees reports.
Certain elements of the four thefts indicate that the same method of operation was used in all, head of the southern prefecture's crime division Arved Ant said.
Clergymen, heritage protection officials and antiquaries alike are convinced the thefts must be the work of one and the same gang.
According to Postimees, a common factor is that the stolen icons were carefully selected.
"One gets the feeling that the thieves knew exactly what to take. Only the most valuable icons were stolen from our church, all the others were left nicely untouched," the wife of the head of the Luhamaa congregation said.
In another church, icons which were not painted but printed on paper were left hanging.
The wave of thefts continued in the eastern Jogeva County where criminals broke into a church and stole several icons last weekend.
A Russian Orthodox church at Valgi in the Tartumaa region was burglarized in mid July. In that case, the burglars got away with eight icons.
At the beginning of June the thieves broke into two Apostolic Orthodox churches in the southern Voru County.
On June 11 five valuable icons, a collection box and a seven-branched candelabrum were taken from the Luhamaa church, and a week earlier the Moniste-Ritsiku church was burglarized.
In cooperation with BNS