Ex-girlfriend says Tillmann not a charming art thief, but a 'psychopath'
The recent death of John Mark Tillmann, the country's most infamous art and antiquities thief, has brought a deep sense of relief from one of Tillmann's former girlfriends.
She says he wasn't a charming thief - he was violent and dangerous.
“He's just a -- in my opinion -- a psychopath,” said the woman, whose identity cannot be published because of a court order.
Her story is one she's waited 10 uncomfortable years to share.
We'll call her Isabella, and she holds nothing back when she talks about the man she blames for her PTSD.
“Well, I think that John Mark Tillmann is a very a very, very nasty human being and that he takes advantage of innocent people,” she said.
Tillmann made headlines around the world in 2013 when he pleaded guilty to 40 charges of theft, fraud, and possession of stolen goods.
A personal video tour of Tillman's upscale home in Fall River was among the evidence presented at the trial.
Court was told Tillman made a living by stealing and unloading thousands of rare items, including art and antiques, but he kept what he liked.
Police seized more than 1,600 items from his home that were stolen from museums, universities, antique stores, and elsewhere, including libraries and museums in Europe.
In an interview with CTV News after he was granted full parole, Tillmann promoted a book he'd written in prison, and vowed his days of stealing were over.
“I've had a great experience, I've had some great memories that I'll take to my grave,” Tillmann said.
Tillmann went to his grave just before the New Year. The 57-year-old died two days before Christmas in Musquodoboit Harbour and was laid to rest four days later Elderbank, N.S., in a family plot he'd purchased in 2010.
Sources tell CTV News just six people attended the burial and Tillmann himself wanted news of his death kept to a minimum.
“It makes me really uncomfortable, thinking ‘is he really dead?’ Why is there mystery wrapped up around this?’” she said.
Isabella dated Tillmann for a short time in 2008.
She says things turned ugly and she broke it off, but Tillmann didn't take it well.
“He got into my apartment building and I opened up the door thinking it was the super, and he came at me and physically assaulted me,” she said. “He spit on me, he punched me, he kicked me, and he forced me into my car with my son, and basically extorted money from us. He forced us to take money out of the bank machine because he felt that I owed that to him for wasting time with him, for dating him.”
Tillmann's parole documents reveal a litany of violent behavior, including a slew of serious charges involving his own mother.
The charges were later withdrawn after she passed away.
Tillmann had also enlisted his mother to help him steal.
“That's what we would employ, like right from uniforms, to an event, to someone falling down or clutching her chest,” Tillmann said in a 2016 interview with CTV News. “I'm telling this now because she's gone, and I think the story should be told because it's interesting and she was a great distraction in her own way.”
Tillmann was handed two years for the attack on Isabella, but he was paroled after one.
Since then, she says it's been a decade of therapy and looking over her shoulder -- but not anymore.
“I'm having a party,” she said. “Now that I know 100 per cent, we're having a he's-dead party.’”
It’s a new sense of peace and security for a woman who waited a decade to share her story.
Tillmann also faced charges in connection with another former partner -- the mother of one of his children -- and there were allegations of threats and harassment against other family members.
In recent weeks, we've reached out to a number of them for comment, but so far, everyone has declined to say anything.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.