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Centuries-old gold, gems stolen from British museum

Gold jewellery, gemstones, and glass artifacts (some dating as far back as the 15th century BC) have allegedly been stolen from The British Museum.
Gold jewellery, gemstones, and glass artifacts (some dating as far back as the 15th century BC) have allegedly been stolen from The British Museum.

Gold jewellery and semi-precious gems, dating from 15th century BC to 19th century AD, are among the pieces now missing from The British Museum in London.

The facility has launched an independent review of security after several items kept in a collection storeroom were found to be missing, stolen, or damaged. The pieces were kept primarily for research and academic purposes and had not recently been on public display.

The museum has stated that a member of its staff has been dismissed and that legal action will be taken against this individual.

“This is a highly unusual incident,” says Hartwig Fischer, director of The British Museum. “I know I speak for all colleagues when I say that we take the safeguarding of all the items in our care extremely seriously.”

In response to the event, an independent review has been launched. It will be led by former trustee, Sir Nigel Boardman, and Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of the British Transport Police.

“The British Museum has been the victim of theft and we are absolutely determined to use our review in order to get to the bottom of what happened, and ensure lessons are learnt,” Boardman says. “We are working alongside the Metropolitan Police in the interest of criminal justice to support any investigations.”

“Furthermore,” he continues, “the recovery programme will work to ensure the stolen items are returned to the museum. It will be a painstaking job, involving internal and external experts, but this is an absolute priority—however long it takes—and we are grateful for the help we have already received.”

“Our priority is now threefold,” adds the museum’s chair, George Osborne. “First, to recover the stolen items; second, to find out what, if anything, could have been done to stop this; and third, to do whatever it takes, with investment in security and collection records, to make sure this doesn’t happen again. It’s a sad day for all who love our British Museum, but we’re determined to right the wrongs and use the experience to build a stronger museum.”

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In the interest of working with the Metropolitan Police, the museum will not comment on the matter any further at this time.

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