British Museum worker sacked over missing items was senior curator | English Museum

THE English Museum The employee sacked after the disappearance of precious objects has been appointed senior curator having worked at the institution for 30 years.

Peter Higgs was reportedly fired earlier this year after the museum realized that gold jewellery, semi-precious stones and glass dating from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD were missing, stolen or damaged.

Wednesday, the The museum announced that it had put in place “emergency measures” and ordered an independent safety review. The Metropolitan Police have opened an investigation.

Higgs, 56, was the museum’s curator of Greek collections, Greek sculpture and the Hellenistic period until he was sacked.

Peter Higgs
Peter Higgs. His son said his father was innocent and had “lost all faith in the museum”. Photo: Matt Dunham/AP

His son, Greg, said his father had “done nothing”. He told the Telegraph“He’s not happy at all. He lost his job and his reputation and I don’t think that’s fair. It couldn’t have been [him]. I don’t even think it’s missing anything, as far as I know.

His father had “lost all faith in the museum”, he added.

A British Museum spokesperson said they could not comment due to the police investigation.

On Wednesday, George Osborne, the museum’s chairman, said the trustees had “taken decisive action to deal with the situation, working together with the museum team. We called the police, imposed emergency measures to tighten security, set up an independent review of what happened and the lessons to be learned, and used all the disciplinary powers we had to deal with the individual we believe to be responsible.

The British Museum said it discovered earlier this year that items from its collections were missing. He did not say exactly what the employee allegedly did, or whether there was a delay between the employee’s firing and the police response. No one has been arrested.

Christopher Marinello of Art Recovery International, who has recovered $600m (£470m) worth of artwork over 35 years, said he had heard reports that some of the missing items had already been sold.

“To be honest, it’s quite shocking. We get reports of thefts from museums all over the world every day. But this is the British Museum, one of the largest and best-funded museums in the world.

“I know everyone is meeting right now on security issues. It’s a shame they discuss security issues after the fact. But that’s where we are.

The British Museum “should have involved the police straight away”, as soon as it knew items were missing, he said.

In the UK, he said, there were too few police officers working on art and heritage crime. “There are two in London. In Italy there are more than 300 police officers dedicated to crimes against cultural heritage.

In order to recover stolen works of art and heritage objects, the institution “must be very clear about what was stolen and put it in databases. Then the trade – collectors, dealers, auction houses – must do their due diligence by checking the databases.

“I don’t think the British Museum knows exactly what went missing. It appears the individual took items that would sell under the radar, weren’t of major importance, or wouldn’t have been in storage.

Arthur Brand, who has recovered stolen items worth up to €400m (£340m) around the world, said it was common for such thefts to be an “inside job “.

The British Museum is said to have hundreds of thousands of small items “which are very difficult to keep and very easy to put in your pocket”.

Someone was “smart enough to steal easy-to-sell things – knock-down jewelry. Gold and silver can be melted down, stones can be recut.

“There is always a small percentage of people in the jewelry business who will look the other way.”

If the thief was forced to resort to the black market, he would only get a fraction of the item’s value, he said.

In 2019, Brand recovered 18k gold ring donated by Oscar Wilde to Magdalen College, Oxford, which had been stolen 17 years earlier. The ring was recovered from Hatton Garden, the center of London jewelry.

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