The British Museum was evacuated Tuesday morning after a man was stabbed close to the London institution’s main entrance at 10am, just as the museum opened to the public.
Police confirmed that a man had been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm. The victim’s injuries are not thought to be life-threatening, while the incident is not thought to be terrorism-related.
The Evening Standard newspaper claimed the man was stabbed while queuing to enter the museum, although this has not been corroborated.
Speaking to The Art Newspaper, eye-witnesses close to the scene reported seeing a man estimated to be in his 30s in the process of being arrested, while a large knife was taken from the scene of the crime in an evidence bag. Another eye-witness reported seeing a large amount of blood pooled on the pavement where the incident took place.
George Osborne, the chairman of the British Museum and the UK’s former chancellor, said in a post on X (formerly Twitter): “Disturbing news of a knife attack near the gates of the British Museum this am. Much thanks to our security team and other BM staff, who reacted quickly, with the police. Museum has now reopened; everyone’s thoughts at the BM are with the victim and we wish him the best recovery.”
The incident prompted a significant police response and an arrest was made soon after the attack took place, close to the corner of Great Russell Street and Museum Street. A significant police presence assisted in evacuating the museum while cordoning off the adjoining street, which was kept in lockdown for around two hours after the incident took place. Staff at nearby businesses said they weren’t allowed to leave their premises throughout this time.
Photographs shared on social media showed a police tent erected close to the railings of the museum while they tended to the victim. The victim was stabbed in the arm, police confirmed, and was later transferred to a major trauma unit at a local hospital via ambulance.
Speaking to The Art Newspaper, a British Museum spokesperson said: “The museum was closed this morning due to an incident following a member of the public being attacked nearby. The Museum’s security team supported at the scene until the emergency services arrived. Visitors were evacuated from the museum as a precaution and we wish the victim a full and swift recovery.”
The museum reopened to the public at around 12.30pm, but with a heightened security protocol. Long queues of people were seen waiting to gain access to the museum, with extensive searches being conducted by museum staff on a condition of entry. Armed police were also visible close to the museum. A museum spokesperson confirmed to The Art Newspaper: "As a precaution, the museum raised security including a heightened search operation."
The British Museum is one of the most popular cultural attractions in the UK, with around two million people visiting the institution between April 2021 and March 2022.
In a statement released by Scotland Yard, London’s Metropolitan police said a man was being treated for a stab wound to his arm and that his condition was being assessed. “This was an isolated incident and there is no outstanding risk to the public,” the statement said. “It is not being treated as terror-related.”