Crematorium staff at the Hoop Lane Cemetery in north London returned to work after the New Year to find the shattered pieces of a 2,300-year-old urn containing the ashes of Sigmund Freud and his wife, Martha. It seems that thieves accidentally shattered the urn while trying to steal it.
A rep for the crematorium described the urn as “severely damaged."
"Even leaving aside the financial value of the irreplaceable urn, and the historical significance of to whom it related, the fact that someone set out to take an object knowing it contained the last remains of a person defies belief," Detective Constable Daniel Candler said in a statement.
Freud, known as the founding father of psychoanalysis, died in London in 1939. His ashes have since been on display in the urn, which he received as a gift from Napoleon's grand-niece, Princess Marie Bonaparte.
British writer Lisa Appignanesi, chair of the trustees of the Freud Museum in London, said Freud brought the urn with him when he left Vienna for London in 1938.
"It had been in his study for many years in Vienna, before the Nazi occupation forced the family exodus to England, to which he came, as he said, to die in freedom," she said.