British Museum Reveals 'Highly Unusual Incident'

Says worker stole gold and jewels and has been fired
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 16, 2023 4:09 PM CDT
British Museum: Worker Stole Ancient Gold, Jewels
Visitors walk outside the British Museum in Bloomsbury, London, Friday, June 26, 2015. The British Museum said a member of staff has been dismissed after items were found to be missing, stolen or damaged.   (AP Photo/Tim Ireland, File)

The British Museum in London has suffered a "highly unusual incident," per the museum's director: the alleged theft of items by a staff member. The BBC reports the unnamed employee has been fired and the museum plans to take legal action. For now, police are investigating, with gold, jewelry, and semi-precious stones dating from the 15th century BC through the 1800s said to be missing; the museum said most were small items that had been housed in storage, reports the AP. No arrests have been made. The Telegraph calls it "the museum's biggest breach of security in recent times," though the New York Times circles back to a 2004 incident in which 15 pieces of Chinese jewelry were taken during operating hours.

"I know I speak for all colleagues when I say that we take the safeguarding of all the items in our care extremely seriously," said British Museum director Hartwig Fischer, promising the museum would "throw our efforts into the recovery of objects." The Guardian has a statement from museum chair George Osborne, who noted the trustees learned of the theft "earlier this year" and took "decisive action to deal with the situation, working with the team at the museum. We called in the police, imposed emergency measures to increase security, set up an independent review into what happened and lessons to learn, and used all the disciplinary powers available to us to deal with the individual we believe to be responsible."

He continued, "Our priority is now threefold: 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." (More museum theft stories.)

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