Beetles, Balls and Bronzes: The [Pounds Sterling]850,000 Museum Haul; List of Stolen Artefacts Highlights Scale of Theft

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Byline: ELLEN WIDDUP

A TREASURE trove worth almost [pounds sterling]850,000 has been snatched from London's leading museums and galleries in the past five years.

Almost 100 items have been stolen, including dozens of sculptures, ornaments, coins and jewels.

The most valuable piece was a set of three bronze Renaissance sculptures of the entombment of Christ. Worth a total of [pounds sterling]280,000, they were taken from the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2004 and never recovered.

Thieves have also made off with a collection of 167 dried South American beetles and a mounted centipede from the Natural History Museum; a [pounds sterling]40 bottle of Paul Smith perfume from a contemporary display at the V&A; a 16th-century crystal ball from the Science Museum; and three National Lottery balls from the V&A's Theatre Museum in Covent Garden.

The scale of theft is disclosed in inventories of lost, stolen and damaged items. It comes a day after the Evening Standard reported that [pounds sterling]100,000 worth of books and records had been taken from the British Library since 2001. The Science Museum has had the largest number of items snatched - 40 in 10 separate thefts. Its total loss is estimated at [pounds sterling]230,000.

While the V&A has had fewer items stolen, their value, at [pounds sterling]564,040, is more than double that of those taken from the Science Museum.

Everything stolen from the V&A was taken in three raids carried out over two months. Ceramics worth [pounds sterling]60,000 went in October 2004 and a month later Meissen figures worth [pounds sterling]30,000 vanished. …