Napoleon artifacts stolen from museum

Updated: 2014-04-16 08:02

By Agence France-Presse in Sydney (China Daily)

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A lock of Napoleon Bonaparte's hair and other "priceless" artifacts linked to the French emperor have been stolen from a museum in Australia, the police said on Tuesday.

Burglars broke into the building on Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne in the state of Victoria.

"The offender(s) have jimmied open cabinets inside and stolen numerous priceless antiques," a police statement said.

The stolen items included a ring and a glass frame containing Napoleon's hair, a ribbon inscribed by Napoleon in 1815 and a snuff box, the statement said.

The thieves removed outside blinds and entered through a bathroom of the historic Briars Park homestead in Mount Martha on Thursday night, the police said.

The museum said the collection was put together by descendants of Alexander Balcombe, an Englishman who met Napoleon when the emperor was exiled on the tiny South Atlantic island of St Helena from 1815 until his death six years later.

Balcombe "sat on Napoleon's knee as a little boy", museum coordinator Steve York told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"The family were good friends with the emperor when he was sent into exile on St Helena," York said.

Balcombe settled in Australia in 1846.

Ten items were taken from the collection, including locks of Napoleon's hair and a silver inkwell set with three gold Napoleon coins that were said to be in his pocket when he died.

Miniature portraits of Napoleon and the empress Josephine were also stolen.

"Really they're priceless because they can't be replaced. We're quite distraught," York said.

The rest of the collection of nearly 500 pieces has now been relocated for safety.

Police said the robbery appeared to have lasted just 10 minutes and was a targeted theft.

"We think it's probably destined for a private collection. It could well be stolen to order," Detective Sergeant Michael Lamb told the broadcaster.

(China Daily 04/16/2014 page10)