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Harry Manx: Suspect's in Custody in Theft of His Rare Guitar at O'Hare

By  Dave Newbart and Erica Demarest | February 24, 2014 8:56pm | Updated on February 25, 2014 7:16am

 Blues musician Harry Manx said on Friday his rare guitar was stolen from Chicago O'Hare International Airport.
Harry Manx's Rare Guitar Stolen
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CHICAGO — A Canadian blues guitarist whose rare guitar was stolen at O'Hare Airport last week said late Monday that police have a suspect in custody who might have been involved in other luggage thefts at the airport and in other states.

In a phone interview from Montreal, Harry Manx said he had spoken to both O'Hare District Cmdr. Thomas Argenbright and a detective on the case, who told him a man was arrested Monday in connection with other thefts at O'Hare.

They said the man was also allegedly seen on a security camera stealing Manx's handmade Indian Mohan Veena guitar Friday from a baggage claim.

"That's how they nabbed him," Manx said of the other alleged thefts, in an interview with DNAinfo Chicago. "Outside of my loss, it's probably a great thing he's been caught. ... I definitely support getting this guy off the street."

Police asked if he would return to Chicago if necessary to press charges and speak with prosecutors, and Manx promised the detective he would "do whatever they want me to do," he said. He thanked police for their work.

"I told him, 'You were quick on this.' He said, 'We made it a priority.'"

The guitar, though, has not been found, he said.

A Chicago Police spokesman could not immediately confirm whether an arrest had been made in the case, saying the missing guitar is "an ongoing investigation." Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride referred questions to police.

Manx, 59, who lives on an island off the western coast of Canada, travels the world playing a style of music that he describes as wedding the blues with Indian ragas. He had come through O'Hare Friday on the way to gigs in Wisconsin.

But after the guitar was stolen, he took to Facebook with a "heavy heart" to explain what the instrument meant to him.

"While I was on my way to retrieving my luggage, someone stole my beloved Mohan Veena," Manx wrote.

"I've had that Veena more than 20 years," the post continued. "There's hardly been a day that I haven't played it. I feel as though I've lost a good friend."

Manx said the Veena guitar has 20 strings running parallel to one another in two layers. Turning heads run down the neck. The instrument was in a black fiberglass case covered in stickers and lined with red velvet.

"There's no missing it," Manx said. "No other instrument looks like this."

Manx said Monday that the instrument was made in India and he paid less than $100 for it.

"It's not even a well-made instrument but because of that, it has that great sound," he said. He said now he puts the value on it at $10,000.

The Facebook post quickly trended on social media, with more than 77,000 people sharing Manx's original post and more than 5,000 people commenting on it as of Monday evening. He also had 5,000 Facebook messages sent directly to him.

As of Monday night, 5.3 million people had seen the story on Facebook, he said.

He said he was stunned by how much attention the story received, but thinks it's because a lot of people understood what he was going through.

"I was pretty broken up about it. I poured that into my message," he said. "Maybe that’s why its resonated with a larger crowd. The loss. They can relate to this story."

But since the post, with so much support from fans he didn't even know he had, it was hard for him to stay upset for too long, and he became less worried about the physical loss of the guitar.

"It's been real hard for me to be miserable because the good stuff has outweighed the bad," he said. "I've been offered guitars and gigs" — and has felt an outpouring of love.

One of the people that reached out was the owner of Rosa's in Logan Square, Tony Mangiullo.

"He said, 'Sorry to hear about your story. But if anyone tries to sell it they will definitely be caught.'"

Manx said once the guitar is found, he would be happy to return to the city and possibly play a gig at a spot like Rosa's to thank everyone for their support. Although Buddy Guy has been a long-time influence on him, he said he hasn't played Chicago in a few years beyond a Blues Fest appearance a decade ago and a show at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

"I'd love to explore it," he said. "I'm not going to judge a town based on the actions of one lunatic. I'd like to spend more time there. What I know is it's a cool place."