Matt Hanna, 11, may be aiming for the title of youngest investigator in the Lower Mainland.
The Mission boy identified, bought, and returned a stolen painting to its rightful owner, seven years after it was swiped from a Fort Langley art gallery.
"He believes in doing the right thing," said Steve Cant, Hanna's proud father.
On Friday, Langley painter Reet Herder got to meet Hanna and thank him for returning her artwork, one she'd thought was long-lost.
The theft took place in August 2005.
Herder was displaying some of her paintings, along with fellow artists Lora Armbruster and Gwen Murphy, in the rail car maintained by the Langley Heritage Society.
When Herder arrived at the gallery on Aug. 11, she found the door open, and 17 pieces missing.
The stolen artworks ranged in value from $2,000 to $10,000, the Langley Advance reported at the time.
Since then, Herder hasn't seen much of her paintings. Armbruster, however, found one when a friend spotted it at a neighbour's garage sale.
That's where Hanna comes in.
The young boy began going to garage sales and auctions with his beloved grandfather and father.
He discovered a passion for buying and selling after an impulsive purchase of a surfboard for $15.
After realizing he couldn't use the board for much at the lake, he sold it - for $500.
What began as an excuse for outings with his grandfather turned into a busy hobby.
Even after his grandfather passed away recently - Hanna has his grandfather's name painted on his goalie helmet - he kept going out with his father.
He's become a research hound, heading out to Big Valley Auctions Tuesday evenings, Googling any interesting items, and bidding on Wednesday nights.
One night a few months ago, he spotted a painting of sail boats at rest in a cove. It was titled "Harbouring Great Memories," Cant said.
A few minutes research, and Hanna was surprised to find that it was stolen. He found the name of the artist, and stories about the theft from the train car.
Hanna immediately suggested buying and returning it, said his father.
They got the painting for $65, with one of the owners at Big Valley throwing in half the price from his own wallet once he heard the story.
The father and son then called the Langley RCMP and Herder, to let them know they'd found the missing painting.
The painting was one of Herder's earliest works, she said. It was painted from a photo she took of a bay on Vancouver Island in the late 1990s, before Hanna was even born.
It apparently arrived at Big Valley Auctions after the contents of a storage locker somewhere were seized, so who had it last and its path from theft to sale isn't fully known.
The painting is a little bit the worse for wear, but Herder is very pleased to have it back, and was happy Friday to meet the young man who found it.
Const. Craig van Herk of the Langley RCMP told Hanna to keep an eye out - if he spots any more stolen items, he can call the police, and they'll work to get them back to their rightful owners. He won't even have to spend his own money next time.
@ Copyright 2013