Police did not have to order a psychologist’s report to know the mindset of the thief who attempted to steal the urn containing the ashes of Sigmund Freud and his wife.
“Callous and despicable” was the assessment of the burglar who broke into the crematorium in Hoop Lane Golders Green, on New Year’s eve, and removed the urn from the chapel where it was on display.
The word “bungling” could easily have been added as the robber managed to drop the loot while making their getaway, badly damaging the 2,300-year-old urn.
Detective Constable Daniel Candler, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “This was a despicable act by a callous thief.
“We believe the suspect, or suspects, broke into grounds of the cemetery and forced open the window to the chapel.
“They removed the urn from the plinth it sat on, and tried to climb over the fence, but in doing so they dropped it.”
He added: “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.”
Freud is regarded as the founding father of psychoanalysis and one of the most influential minds of the 20th century.
He was forced to flee the Nazis in his native Austria in 1938 and settled in Swiss Cottage, north London, where he died of cancer a year later.
His wife, Martha Bernays, died in 1951, and her ashes were put with his in the urn, which has remained on show at the crematorium ever since.
Police have urged anyone with information on the attempted theft to contact Crimestoppers.
The crematorium is now reviewing their security and has moved the urn to a secure area.