Police appeal after thieves attempt to steal Sigmund Freud’s ashes from Golders Green Crematorium

15:43 14 January 2014

The 3rd century BCE Greek urn the held the ashes of Sigmund Freud and his wife, Martha

The 3rd century BCE Greek urn the held the ashes of Sigmund Freud and his wife, Martha


An “irreplaceable” urn containing the ashes of famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud has been left severely damaged in a botched attempt to steal his last remains.

In an act described by police as “despicable”, burglars broke into Golders Green Crematorium in Hoop Lane between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in a raid that left the vessel in pieces.

The valuable Greek 4th century artefact – given as a present to Freud by long-time friend Princess Marie Bonaparte – also contained the ashes of his wife, Martha.

The chairman of the Freud Museum, in Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, speaking as a representative for the Freud family, said news of the damage had brought them “great sadness”.

Lisa Appignanesi said: “The ancient Greek urn is irreplaceable. 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’.”

Freud, the founding father of psychoanalysis, was cremated three days after his death at the age of 83, on September 23, 1939.

The acclaimed thinker was a passionate – even obsessive – art collector of Roman, Greek, Near East and Egyptian antiquities.

The hobby started after the death of his own father when he was 40-years-old, and led to a collection of some 2,000 pieces.

With prized artefacts dotted around his study and library, it allowed him to effectively work in his own museum, providing another worldly environment for himself and patients.

With many of the pieces holding personal relevance to Freud and his work, curators at the museum said it was “fitting” that Freud’s family chose to store his ashes in one of his own vases.

The now-damaged ancient artefact depicts Dionysus, the Greek god of winemaking and ritual madness, and a maenad, a female follower of Dionysus, literally translated as “the raving one”.

It was given to him by Marie Bonaparte, a French author, fellow psychoanalyst and great-grandniece of Napoleon Bonaparte I of France.

Placed on a plinth designed by Austrian architect – and Freud’s son – Ernst, the urn was put on display to the public.

But its future now remains in doubt as workers at the site – where Freud’s daughter Anna was also cremated – revealed they had been forced to “review their security” following the break-in.

“It has now been moved to a “secure area” while an investigation is under way.

Det Con Daniel Candler called the attempted burglary “a despicable act by a callous thief”.

He said: “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.”

n Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 020 8733 4525 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.


Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 15:35
Kato Harris will appear at Isleworth Crown Court next Tuesday

This is the first picture of teacher Kato Harris who has appeared in court accused of repeatedly raping an underage girl.

Yesterday, 17:10
Actresses Juliet Stevenson and Michelle Collins with volunteers and Alexandra's mum Lindsey Wylie from the Alexandra Wylie Tower Foundation (AWTF) launch the Christmas food parcel appeal. Picture: Polly Hancock

A charity is marking the fifth anniversary of a Highgate schoolgirl’s death from cancer with the launch of a Christmas appeal to help children left without support following the closure of Kids Company.

Yesterday, 12:53
Victims of the contaminated blood scandal: (left) Nick Hirsch, (right, from top) Clair Walton and her late husband, Colette Wintle and Mark Ward

Timetable for settlement on NHS scandal has slipped yet again say campaigners - as they wait to see if cash is allocated in chancellor’s autumn spending review

Yesterday, 08:46
The London Fire Brigade has put forward proposals to axe 13 fire engines to save £11million

‘While a new website would be welcome, this should not be done at the cost of frontline cuts’ says fire resources committee chief

Tue, 18:01
Khayerul Miah, pictured, and his brother have joined IS in Syria

The two young men from Kentish Town who left the UK to fight for Islamic State (IS) in Syria are former pupils of Acland Burghley School.

Tue, 16:46
The government says the HPV vaccine is safe and will protect against deaths from cervical cancer

East Finchley mother accuses pharmaceutical industry and government of ‘ignoring generation of sick girls’ as European Medicines Agency finds no link between illnesses and cervical cancer jab

Tue, 15:58
Carl Ryan, who is charged with misconduct in a public office, outside court (Picture: Central News)

A detective who faked records - including witness statements by Whittington Hospital staff - thwarted three investigations into serious sex assaults, a court heard.

Tue, 12:18
Firefighters from West Hampstead were called to tackle the large blaze in Finchley Road - which burned for 72 hours

West Hampstead and Hornsey fire stations could both lose an engine under controversial cost-cutting proposals

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot


Tesco - Every little helps

Would you like to have the opportunity to win a huge £2,500 to spend at Tesco? Well with this amazing prize you can do exactly that! MyOffers are giving you the chance to get your hands on £2,500 to spend on anything you desire may it be free weekly groceries for the foreseeable future, a new TV, home decoration or even a new sofa!

You could get your hands on the new Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge!

Here’s your chance to win one of the most feature-packed smartphones on the planet, from tech giants Samsung, The Samsung S6 Edge!

Digital Edition

Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24

Local business directory

Our trusted business finder