News South Wales police have charged a man who allegedly broke into the Australian Museum and spent 40 minutes strolling around taking selfies with the exhibits.
Over the weekend, the police released CCTV footage (now withdrawn) and put out a call for anyone who recognized the intruder to report his identity. The man stole a cowboy hat from a museum coat rack and took a picture from the walls. Judging by the social media response, however, there was more enthusiasm for buying him a beer in the newly reopened pubs than reporting him to authorities.
Although some people saw something particularly Australian in the footage of the man taking selfies near the mouthparts of therapods, the person charged is Paul Kuhn, a German citizen studying at an Australian University. Kuhn turned himself in to a local police station.
Australia’s oldest museum has been closed to the public for the last nine months to allow a major renovation. Some public programs continued initially, but have been shut down by pandemic restrictions. It's possible the intruder felt he couldn’t wait any longer for a view of the Megaladon teeth, meteorites, and gastric-brooding frogs the museum has to offer. A more likely explanation, however, is that he took advantage of the scaffolding that's facilitating the reconstruction to get in through a usually inaccessible route.
Cameras show Kuhn attempting to enter many locked rooms. At this stage, the possibility he was looking for something specific to steal can’t be entirely ruled out. However, the fact that he actually rang a doorbell for one of these rooms and also passed up the chance to make off with some of the museum's priceless items suggests his intentions were more benign, a view backed up by his being granted bail. The value or nature of the stolen picture has not been reported, but the cowboy hat appears to belong to a staff member rather than being of historical significance.
The full video is sadly no longer available, but some outlets made copies of highlights.
Nevertheless, the museum – which boasts millions of artifacts, some of immense scientific value – is presumably conducting a thorough review of its security procedures, and is not relying on the deterrent effect of Night at The Museum.
Anyone whose hunger for a museum visit has been awakened by the news will have to wait an estimated six months for reopening, but there are safer and legal alternatives in the museum's extensive online collection.
The break-in happened a week ago, around 1 am on Sunday morning, but the police took almost a week to place the footage on their Facebook page.