British police are searching for the "callous" thieves that reportedly attempted to steal the ashes of famed psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and his wife from a London crematorium, and in the process caused severe damage to the 2,400-year-old urn that housed the remains.
"Between December 31 and January 1, burglars attempted to steal an urn containing the remains of Sigmund Freud and his wife Martha," the Metropolitan Police said in a statement to the public.
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Detectives said Wednesday that the 4th century BC Greek urn — which depicts Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ecstasy — was a gift to Freud from close friend and fellow psychoanalyst Princess Marie Bonaparte. It was "severely damaged" by the robbers, who reportedly smashed it, according to the London Evening Standard.
"This was a despicable act by a callous thief," Detective Constable Daniel Chandler of the Metropolitan Police told Agence France-Presse
. "Even leaving aside the financial value of the irreplaceable urn and the historical significance 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."
Freud died in September 1939 at the age of 83. His ashes were placed in the urn and stowed at the Golders Green Crematorium near his home in North London. His wife, Martha Bernays, died in 1951 and her ashes were also placed in the urn.
Freud, considered the founding father of psychoanalysis, moved to Britain after fleeing Nazi-controlled Austria in 1938.
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