Why Did Edwin Rist Break Into the British Museum of Natural History?

In 2009, Edwin Rist, a 20-year-old American flautist studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, broke into the British Museum of Natural History’s ornithology department. He managed to steal 299 bird skins, some of which were extremely rare and valuable specimens collected by Charles Darwin himself.

Rist was not a typical thief. He was not interested in selling the skins for money; instead, he wanted them for his own personal collection and use in making fly fishing lures. However, his actions caused significant damage to science and research as several rare specimens were lost forever due to his careless handling.

So why did Rist break into the museum in the first place? The answer lies in his passion for fly tying.

Fly tying is a hobby that involves creating artificial flies used for fly fishing. These flies are made by combining different materials such as feathers, fur, and thread. The feathers used in these flies are often from exotic birds and are highly sought after by enthusiasts.

Rist was an accomplished fly tier who had won several awards for his creations. He had a deep fascination with the feathers of exotic birds and was always looking for new and rare materials to use in his work. When he learned about the extensive collection of bird skins at the museum, he saw an opportunity to acquire some valuable materials.

Rist meticulously planned his heist over several months. He spent time studying the museum’s security systems and even posed as a researcher to gain access to the building’s archives before eventually breaking into the ornithology department on June 23rd, 2009.

After stealing the bird skins, Rist returned to his apartment where he began using them to create new fly patterns. However, it wasn’t long before authorities caught up with him after one of his accomplices tried to sell some of the stolen specimens online.

In court, Rist pleaded guilty to burglary and received a suspended sentence. He was ordered to pay £125,000 in damages to the museum and his reputation was forever tarnished in the fly fishing community.

The incident highlights the dangers of obsession and how it can lead people to make irrational and illegal decisions. While Rist’s passion for fly tying may have been admirable, his actions caused significant harm to scientific research and the preservation of rare specimens.

In conclusion, Edwin Rist broke into the British Museum of Natural History’s ornithology department in 2009 to steal rare bird skins for his own personal collection and use in fly tying. While his passion may have been admirable, his actions caused significant damage to science and research. It is important to remember that even the most innocent hobbies can lead people down dangerous paths if taken too far.