British Museum sacks staff member over missing treasures

British Museum sacks staff member over missing treasures


A British Museum employee has been reportedly removed from the job after “treasures” at the museum were reported ‘stolen’, ‘missing’ or ‘damaged’. According to reports, gold, jewellery, and gems of semi-precious stones have gone missing from the museum. Notably, the British Museum is one of the most significant tourist attractions in the UK, where visitors can see items taken by the British during their colonial rule across the world, including India. Around six million people visit the museum every year.

The majority of the items that have been reported stolen, missing or damaged were kept in a storeroom. Director of the British Museum Hartwig Fischer said in a statement that they would try to “recover the objects”. Following the incident, British Museum has started independently reviewing its security.

Fischer said, “This is a highly unusual incident. I know I speak for all colleagues when I say that we take safeguarding all the items in our care extremely seriously. We have already tightened our security arrangements and are working alongside outside experts to complete a definitive account of what is missing, damaged and stolen.”

He added that the organisation would “put things right”. However, it should not be understood in a way that the museum has any plans to return the treasures and priceless historical items to the countries of origin.

The museum is also planning to take legal action against the staff member. The investigation has been handed over to the Economic Crime Command of the Metropolitan Police. So far, they have not arrested anyone in the matter.

Reportedly, the missing, stolen or damaged items were dated from the 15th Century BC to the 19th Century AD. They were not kept on display in recent times and were available for academic and research purposes only.

The PA news agency reported that the investigators believe that the items were taken before 2023 over a significant period. Chair of the British Museum George Osborne said, “The trustees of the British Museum were extremely concerned when we learnt earlier this year that items from the collection had been stolen. 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.”

Former trustee of the museum, Sir Nigel Broadman, and Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi of the British Transport Police will lead the independent review of the museum security. They will recommend changes that the museum must bring to ensure future security. Furthermore, they will also start “a vigorous programme to recover the missing items,” said the museum.

In a statement, Nigel said, “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.”

British Museum has a history of thefts

This is not the first time items have gone missing from the museum. Several coins and medals were stolen back in the 1970s. In 1993, thieves broke in and stole Roman coins. In 2002, 2,500 -year-old 12cm high Greek statue was reported stolen. In 2004, Chinese jewellery went missing from the museum. In 2017, a GBP 750,000 Cartier Diamond Ring was reported missing from the collection. Notably, the ring was stolen in 2011, but it came to the public’s knowledge in 2017.


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