British Museum

The British Museum where several items of jewellery were taken.

Image: With permission from British Museum.

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The museum announced it is taking legal action against the individual and the situation is under investigation by the Economic Crime Command of the Metropolitan Police.

An independent review is also under way by the museum, led by former trustee Sir Nigel Boardman and Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of the British Transport Police.

The jewellery and gems, dating from the 1500BC to the 19th century, are believed to have been taken over a long period of time. The majority of the missing items had been kept in a storeroom and had not been on public display recently and were “kept primarily for academic and research purposes”.

Although many media sources have named the individual being investigated, the museum said it “cannot and will not comment on the name of an individual while the police investigation is ongoing”.

The museum is also not releasing images of the missing items due to the “ongoing police investigation”. 

British Museum

The atrium at the British Museum. Image: With permission from British Museum.

George Osborne, chair of the British Museum, said: “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.

“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.”

Hartwig Fischer, museum director, added: “This is a highly unusual incident. The museum apologises for what has happened, but we have now brought an end to this – and we are determined to put things right. We have already tightened our security arrangements and we are working alongside outside experts to complete a definitive account of what is missing, damaged and stolen. This will allow us to throw our efforts into the recovery of objects.”