A man accused of putting his fist through a €10m Claude Monet painting shouted afterwards “it was an accident”, his trial has heard.
Andrew Shannon (aged 48), of Willans Way, Ongar, Dublin 15, denies causing criminal damage to the painting at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin on June 29, 2012.
The 1874 work, entitled Argenteuil Basin with a Single Sailboat, is Ireland's only painting by the celebrated French impressionist in public collection.
Sergeant Sean Kerr told Kerida Naidoo BL, that when he arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, the accused said he didn't feel well.
Mr Shannon told the garda: “I felt weak and I fell against it. I don't know what happened after that.”
Gordon McArdle, a fire-fighter paramedic with Dublin Fire Brigade, said he examined Mr Shannon at the scene and found he had a normal pulse rate.
“His pulse was 80 beats per minutes in the gallery. Anything between 60 and 100 is normal,” he said.
Mr Shannon complained of chest pain and told the paramedic he had “unstable angina”.
Mr McArdle described the accused as having a normal complexion, neither pale nor flushed, with “slight beading of perspiration on his forehead”.
Mr Shannon was carried to a waiting ambulance where paramedics did a full check of his vital signs, including blood pressure, oxygen levels, motor skills and pupil size.
“He was very stable. Nothing about his vital signs worried me in any way. I did an ECG on his heart and it came back normal, meaning blood supply to the heart wasn't obstructed,” said Mr McArdle.
The paramedic asked Mr Shannon if he had consumed any of the contents of a can of Nitromors paint stripper that he was carrying in a plastic bag.
Mr Shannon said he was a French polisher and that was why he had the can, adding that he hadn't drunk any of it.
Christiaan Clotworthy, Security & Buildings Officer at the National Gallery, told the jury that he arrived at the scene to hear Mr Shannon shouting at a security attendant “It was an accident.”
He said the accused told him he had had four previous heart attacks and an episode the night before.
“It was no accident. I did not believe what he was saying as regards his condition. His whole manner was unconvincing. His behaviour didn't ring true to me,” said Mr Clotworthy.
The court heard that Mr Clotworthy is a registered cardiac first responder, diving emergency responder instructor, occupational first aider and a mountain rescue EFR man.
“I am trained to deal with somebody experiencing cardiac conditions,” he said.
He added that he read the situation as a “security one not a medical one,” but that he took precautions including getting a defibrillator to the scene.
Mr Clotworthy said the damage to the painting was “alarming to say the least,” describing it as a “sizeable tear” just left of centre.
“The painting was struck with such force that the alarms on the far side of the wall also went off,” he said.
Elline von Monschaw, Assistant Conservator with the gallery, showed the jury the wooden frame the painting hung in.
The painting itself could not be brought into court as it is under repair and too fragile.
Ms Von Monschaw said the “very harsh” breaks in the fibre of the canvas indicate that it was struck with “quite some speed and force.”
However she agreed with Brendan Grehan SC, defending, that the canvas was of a very fine quality and had become delicate and brittle with age.
Ms Von Monschaw said it is a “big challenge” to repair the painting but that she is hopeful the public will be able to enjoy the work of art again.
The trial continues tomorrow before Judge Desmond Hogan and a jury of seven women and five men.