A Man Was Caught Stealing Human Toes From a ‘Body Worlds’ Exhibit

Thankfully, the digits have been returned to the exhibit.
Image: Facebook/Body Worlds Vital

In a heist to rival Ocean’s 8, a New Zealand man stole human remains from a Body Worlds exhibit in Auckland last month.

The 28-year-old man from Upper Hutt pilfered two toes from a preserved corpse. It’s not clear how he attempted to get away with it, but I assume it was by plucking them from one of the unprotected bodies.

According to the New Zealand Herald, he’s been charged with theft and “improperly interfering with the dead body of an unknown person.” The digits, each valued at $5,500 (approximately $3,800 US), have since been returned.


The Body Worlds Vital exhibit “celebrates the potential of the human body and the body in motion,” according to its website. Here, visitors can see examples of conditions such as smoker’s lungs and arthritis.

Were these the toes in question? Maybe. Who knows. Image: Facebook/Body Worlds Vital

The cadavers on display have been preserved via plastination, developed by the German anatomist Gunther von Hagens. Through this process, a body’s water and fat are replaced with a type of liquid plastic. Von Hagens has even succeeded in creating a “sex plastinate,” or a display of two people having sex.

Body Worlds is among several traveling human anatomy shows. One Body Worlds exhibit was seen in the James Bond movie Casino Royale. But it’s perhaps better known for controversially using the corpses of executed Chinese prisoners (evidenced by the bullet holes in two of the individuals’ skulls)—a revelation that resulted in the return of seven bodies to China in 2004.

According to its website, Body Worlds states that all of its current cadavers were donated with consent.

The man appeared today in the Auckland District Court before a Community Magistrate to face his charges. He was remanded on bail and set to reappear in the Wellington District Court later this year.