An artist could have been forgiven for thinking he was the victim of a harsh critic when he found his paintings had been put out with the rubbish yesterday. Police received a distress call at about 2 pm from friends of the 29-year-old artist from Trinidad and Tobago, claiming his US$1 million (HK$7.7 million) collection of paintings had been stolen. But within minutes of arriving, officers found the canvas oil paintings dumped with junk in the stairwell of the Wan Chai building where he was staying with friends. Detective Senior Inspector Mike Mason of the Wan Chai crime division said the artist had wrapped his works in protective paper. He had then left them in the corridor outside the 12th-floor Johnston Road flat while packing and preparing to fly back to the West Indies. 'We believe someone like the garbage collector may have misunderstandingly put them in the stairwell,' Mr Mason said. The artist's friends told police they were unsure of the value of the dozen paintings but had claimed they were worth US$1 million in their 999 call as the collection was so precious to him. Mr Mason downplayed reports that the artist had threatened to beat up press photographers who arrived at the scene. 'It was his lifetime's work so he was quite distraught and all the photographers were there so it is possible he may have had words but there were certainly no fisticuffs,' he said. 'The paintings were found and he was okay later - it was all a misunderstanding and a very happy ending.'