Thursday 16 April 2020

Oxford Professor Reportedly Detained in Investigation of Ancient Papyrus Theft [UPDATED]

According to the Guardian's Police and Crime Correspondent, an associate professor in papyrology and Greek literature at a British university, was reportedly detained by officers from Thames Valley police in connection with investigations into the disappearance of some ancient scrolls from a collection he was responsible for (Vikram Dodd, 'Oxford professor arrested on suspicion of ancient papyrus theft', Guardian Thu 16 Apr 2020)
The force had received a report claiming the papyrus fragments that had been housed at the renowned Sackler Library in Oxford, which ended up in a biblical museum in the US, had been stolen. Officers said the alleged theft was reported to them on 12 November. They made the arrest last month and the person detained has been released while inquiries continue. [A man], 63, has denied any wrongdoing, and has said the claims are a “malicious attempt” to harm his reputation and damage his career. [...] [A man] was suspended from duties at Oxford in October 2019 after an investigation into the disappearance of ancient papyrus fragments from the Oxyrhynchus collection, cared for in the Sackler Library and owned by the Egypt Exploration Society (EES). The EES says the materials were removed from Oxford University premises and allegedly sold to the Museum of the Bible.
Update 16th April 2020
For some reason that really should be ascertained, British media at every step shelter the antiquities trade through a veil of opacity and silence. It turns out (Michael Press) that
'...about 5 hours ago, the Oxford Blue, a student paper at Oxford, broke the news that [a man] had been arrested on March 2. 4 hours later, the Guardian puts out its own version of the story -- and doesn't credit the student paper with breaking the news'. 
The Oxford story was written by Lois Heslop, who tipped the Guardian, who did not see fit to acknowledge what they reused from her text.

UPDATE UPDATED 17th April 2020 
Rather belatedly The Guardian added a final line to the story: " The arrest was first reported by the Oxford Blue, a student paper". This still does not explain why the information did not become public six weeks earlier when it happened. Note, no mention of charges was made, and innocent until proven guilty.

Fast moving case this (well, not since March 2nd, but now). The Oxford Blue has apparently been receiving legal threats over the original form of their article. They have replaced the online version with a piece of artwork titled "the scandal of":

The Guardian either has not received the same threats, if threats there were, or is sure of its facts that it has determined to weather out any coming storm.

And where there is scandal, with pictures, trust the Daily Mail to come along to join in:  Baffled Cops Quiz Man (63) over Priceless Manuscripts

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