Almost 2,000 objects are now believed to have been stolen or destroyed by a thief at the British Museum, according to reports.
The museum told Scotland Yard that treasures spanning 3,400 years of history had vanished from its vaults in early January.
The thefts took place over several years with a £50,000 jewel – which was advertised on eBay for £40 – listed for sale as long ago as 2016.
Curator Peter Higgs was fired last month after the thefts. He denies any wrongdoing. Staff have also claimed that the resignation of director, Hartwig Fischer, was prompted by the loss of the treasures.
The museum has refused to say how many items have gone missing, but The Daily Telegraph reports that sources inside the museum believe the true number to be more than 1,000 and “closer to 2,000”.
The source added that the directorate’s handling of the case has been “negligent and incompetent” and that evidence presented to them was ignored.
Prof Martin Henig, an expert in Roman art at the University of Oxford, called the scale of the losses “horrifying” and “unforgivable”.
He said: “This is the worst case that I’ve come across like this because it involves not just selling the odd object, but also destruction.”
The thefts are being investigated by police. No arrests have been made.
The British Museum has been contacted for comment.