British Museum deputy director leaves role after artefact theft scandal | UK News


The deputy director of the British Museum is “stepping down” from his role after around 2,000 artefacts worth millions of pounds were declared missing, stolen or damaged.

It is unclear whether Dr. Jonathan Williams resigned or was fired from his role.

He had previously agreed to step down while the leader of British MuseumHartwig Fischer, quit in the wake of the August scandal that prompted a police investigation.

The museum later appointed Sir Mark Jones as interim director.

Dr.  Jonathan Williams, Deputy Director of the British Museum
Image:
Dr. Jonathan Williams

Dr. Williams’ resignation came just one day after an independent review found the museum had been alerted to suspected theft in 2021 – but an initial investigation wrongly concluded there was no basis for the allegations.

Later that year, a spot check by an internal audit revealed an object out of place in the Greece and Rome guard room, leading to a wider audit of that area and the jewelery and gem collection within it.

The audit, which began in April 2022, subsequently revealed more evidence of missing items.

An unnamed employee has been fired and the museum is taking legal action while a police investigation is underway.

The review, led by Sir Nigel Boardman, Chief Constable Lucy D’Orsi and Deputy High Court Judge Ian Karet, said of the 2,000 items – around 1,500 are missing or stolen.

About 350 items have been removed, such as gold mounts for gemstones.

Museum officials believe these parts are unlikely to be recovered because they were likely sold for scrap, the report adds.

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About 140 items have been damaged by tool marks.

Of the 1,500 lost or stolen items, 351 have already been returned and more than 300 additional items have been identified.

More than a third of the report’s published recommendations are already underway or completed, the British Museum said, including a plan to complete the documentation and digitization of the entire collection within the next five years.


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