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Stolen artefacts returned to Bath museum left damaged

The museum is grateful for even a broken bowl being returned - when it dates from the Ming dynasty. Credit: Museum of East Asian Art

Police have returned a number of priceless artefacts which were stolen from a museum in Bath last year.

More than 40 objects, mainly made from jade and gold, were taken from the Museum of East Asian Art in Bennett Street during a burglary in April 2018. The museum cases were almost destroyed in the raid and the first floor galleries had to be closed.

Eighteen of the items were recovered during a police investigation in Gloucestershire. They were all damaged to some extent but the museum is grateful to have them back.

Before and after - the stolen Ming bowl and 17th century bamboo crab box. Credit: Museum of East Asian Art

Among the items is a rare bamboo box carved in the form of a crab. The shell lid is removable and was left behind during the burglary. The museum says it's delighted that the two parts are now reunited, although it has been badly damaged.

Despite the return of the objects, the burglary still causes a big gap in the museum’s collection which will be hard to mend.

– Nicole Chiang, Museum curator

The Museum of East Asian Art says more than 20 pieces are still missing.

The museum has introduced a range of security measures following the raid last year. Credit: ITV West Country

Staff have sent the broken items to conservation experts for assessment and repair. It is not yet known how long this will take and how much the work will cost.

The museum has already installed a range of extra security measures and now wants to raise enough funds to rebuild the first floor galleries.

A new exhibition, East Asian Life, featuring many objects that survived the burglary is running at the museum in Bennett Street from 28 May until 10 November.