By Ken MacLeod

BOSTON (CBS) – Newly released surveillance video from the Gardner Museum is sparking one man’s memory. Twenty five years after the world’s biggest art heist, the video, released last week, may have just provided the break investigators need to solve the case.

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Attorney George Burke is a former Norfolk County District Attorney who got a phone call from a former client over the weekend.

“I couldn’t believe what he was telling me,” Burke said. “He recognized the person in the video.

Empty frame at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (CBS)

Empty frame at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (CBS)

He’s referring to the grainy, surveillance video released by the feds last week depicting the night before the infamous Gardner Museum art heist a quarter century ago.

It shows a car pulling up to the place before the man who gets out enters a side door opened by a long suspected security guard, possibly to case the joint for the robbery 24 hours later.

“I’m thinking that maybe, possibly, he was part of the deal and knows where the paintings are,” Burke said.

A half billion dollars in art by Rembrandt, Degas, Manet, and Vermeer have never been found.

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“I’ve been hoping that some break would come,” Burke says.

Surveillance image from the night before the Gardner Museum heist (WBZ-TV)

Surveillance image from the night before the Gardner Museum heist (WBZ-TV)

Burke’s client named the shadowy figure who he described as a friend of Myles Connor — an admitted bank robber, drug dealer, and art thief who once made a plea deal with then prosecutor Burke that recovered other stolen art.

“When he told me that, I was in a state of shock because I know who Myles is and I recovered a Rembrandt years ago when I was district attorney,” Burke said.

The FBI says the actual Gardner robbers are both dead, but the tipster believes the man in the video is the brains behind the heist, and he is very much alive.

“He doesn’t want to be known as the one identifying the person in the video, and he says to me ‘I’m afraid they’d kill me,’” Burke said.

Burke passed along his client’s info the U.S. Attorney first thing Monday morning and says the tipster is willing to cooperate with federal prosecutors further — as long as he can remain anonymous.

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Like many others, Burke wonders what might have been had there not been a 25 year delay in going public with the video.

Ken MacLeod