‘Well over 1,000’ items worth ‘millions’ stolen from British Museum – report

The museum has not detailed what is missing from the collection.

Laura Harding
Tuesday 22 August 2023 08:55 BST
An unnamed member of staff has been sacked after thousands of items went missing from the British Museum (Tim Ireland/PA)
An unnamed member of staff has been sacked after thousands of items went missing from the British Museum (Tim Ireland/PA) (PA Wire)

The number of stolen artefacts from the British Museum is “closer to 2,000” with the total value of missing pieces thought to run into “millions of pounds”, reports have said.

Last week the British Museum announced that items from its collection were found to be “missing, stolen or damaged” and an unnamed member of staff has been sacked.

Legal action is being taken by the museum against the individual and police are investigating but no arrests have been made.

The museum has not specified how many items have been stolen or detailed what the missing items are, saying only that were “small pieces” including “gold jewellery and gems of semi-precious stones and glass dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD.”

The number of the stolen items is now believed to be “well over 1,000″ and “closer to 2,000”, with a value running into “millions of pounds”, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The artefacts have not recently been on public display and were kept in a storeroom, mainly used for research and academic work, the museum previously said.

It appears “increasingly likely” that the museum might never know exactly what has been stolen because of “gaps in its inventory,” the paper said.

An independent review of security has been launched and the matter is also under investigation by the economic crime command of the Metropolitan Police.

A museum source told the Telegraph that the directorate’s handling of the case has been “negligent and incompetent” and that evidence presented to them was ignored.

An antiquities expert reportedly told the museum three years ago that items from its collection were being offered for sale on eBay, with one Roman object, valued at £25,000 to £50,000 by dealers, offered for just £40.

The independent review will be led by former museum trustee Sir Nigel Boardman, and Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of the British Transport Police, who will “kickstart” a “vigorous” programme to recover the stolen items.

The British Museum declined to comment while the police investigation is on-going.

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