In a shocking turn of events, Peter Higgs, a renowned authority on Ancient Greece and Rome and a long-serving curator at the British Museum, found himself at the center of a scandal that led to his abrupt dismissal in July.
The controversy revolved around the disappearance of approximately 2,000 priceless artefacts from the museum’s extensive collection.
As the world-leading institution grappled with this crisis, Higgs chose to maintain a low profile, evading the spotlight that now illuminated his professional downfall.
The Sudden Resurfacing
However, despite his desire for anonymity, Higgs recently emerged from seclusion.
Photographed by the Mail outside his modest £550,000 period semi in Hastings, East Sussex, he seemed relaxed and unaffected by the turmoil that had consumed the British Museum.
The images captured the 56-year-old former curator going about his daily life, even driving his humble Nissan Micra through the seaside town.
Throughout this time, Higgs steadfastly refrained from addressing the allegations of theft that had led to his dismissal, though it is understood that he vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
The Enigma of Higgs’s Dismissal
Curiously, the British Museum remained tight-lipped regarding the exact reasons for Higgs’s sacking.
The scandal surrounding the disappearance of artefacts, however, didn’t stop at his dismissal.
It also prompted the resignation of the museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, who acknowledged that the institution had failed to respond adequately to warnings in 2021 about the problem that was now fully exposed.
His departure made way for Sir Mark Jones to take the helm, and Sir Mark had previously suggested the possibility of sharing the contentious Elgin Marbles with Greece.
The Elgin Marbles Dilemma
The Elgin Marbles, acquired in a disputed manner by Lord Elgin between 1801 and 1805, have long been a prized possession of the British Museum.
These sculptures were removed from the Parthenon in Athens and transported to Britain, where they have been on display ever since.
Despite an Act of Parliament stipulating that only Members of Parliament have the authority to dispose of British Museum holdings, there has been mounting pressure over the years to return the Marbles to Greece.
Sir Mark Jones, during his tenure as head of the V&A in 2002, had advocated for the sharing of the Marbles, insisting that inaction was not a viable option.
Defending Higgs: A Son’s Perspective
While Peter Higgs’s reputation was under siege, his 21-year-old son, Greg, staunchly defended his father’s innocence.
Greg refuted the allegations, asserting that his father’s name had been unjustly tarnished.
According to him, there might not even be missing artefacts as far as he was aware.
Yet, this assertion was proven incorrect as the British Museum recently announced an independent review of its security measures after discovering that treasures from its collection had indeed gone missing, been stolen, or suffered damage.
In a revelation that further deepened the crisis, it was disclosed that the museum had received warnings three years prior regarding a staff member allegedly involved in theft.
These priceless artefacts had even surfaced for sale on eBay under an alias previously associated with Mr. Higgs online.
Astonishingly, the museum had largely disregarded these warnings, allowing the situation to escalate.
Unraveling the Mystery
As investigations unfolded, it became evident that artefacts spanning from the 15th century BC to the 19th century AD had disappeared from the museum’s vast storeroom.
These items, part of the museum’s eight million-strong collection used for research purposes, included treasures worth up to £50,000.
Some of these objects had reportedly been listed for a mere £40 as early as 2016.
Despite the magnitude of this loss, the true extent of the vanished artefacts only came to light at the beginning of the year when the Metropolitan Police’s economic crime command was belatedly summoned.
To date, no arrests or charges have been made in connection to the disappearance.
Peter Higgs, who had dedicated three decades to the British Museum and had authored books on the subject of ancient civilizations, including a co-authored work on Cleopatra, now found his legacy in jeopardy.
In 2021, he had also been involved in curating a traveling exhibition focused on the warriors, heroes, and athletes of Ancient Greece, an endeavor that had brought together nearly 180 artefacts.
As the saga continues to unfold, the fate of Higgs and the missing treasures remains uncertain, leaving the world to speculate on the shocking events that transpired within the hallowed halls of one of the world’s most prestigious museums.