Documents reveal largest British museum theft in history. Documents released by the National Archives at Kew, after a Freedom of Information request, show how John Nevin allegedly stole 2,068 items while working as a backroom assistant at the museum between 1944 and 1953.

A Victoria and Albert employee furnished his Chiswick council house with over 2,000 items which he stole in one of the largest museum thefts in history.

A chest engraved with bone plaques was among the items stolen from the Victoria and Albert museum

The documents, obtained by a national newspaper, show that Nevin began his crime spree when he was 48, smuggling the items out of the V&A museum and hiding them in his home.

On one occasion he took home a table by hiding the dismantled legs down his trousers.

The missing pieces were finally noticed after a museum inventory was taken.

When police raided Nevin’s home in Nightingale Close, where he lived with his wife, they found thousands of precious objects.

As well as carved jade figures hidden in a vacuum cleaner dust bag and a silver ink pot secreted in a chimney, police recovered 20 Japanese silver sword guards, 229 illustrations torn from books, 18 pieces of Albanian embroidery, 132 original drawings and watercolours and a 300-year-old Flemish tapestry.

The couple’s bathroom curtains were discovered to have been made from a length of rare cloth and Nevin’s wife had been carrying her grocery shopping in a 19th Century Italian leather and tortoiseshell bag.

Nevin and his wife initially swore that the items had all been bought second-hand or given to them as gifts but their lies soon unravelled.

Nevin was arrested and tried to commit suicide by drinking half a glass of cough mixture. His wife pleaded guilty to 10 charges of receiving stolen goods.

He was sentenced to three years in prison at West London Magistrates Court in June 1954.

He said that he could not help himself and that he stole the items because he was attracted by their beauty.

Museum Security Network / Museum Security Consultancy

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