Mystery over heroin find in the national archives

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A SMALL quantity of heroin has been unearthed in an 80-year-old file at The National Archives – the latest mystery in a long line of unusual discoveries.

The find was made after a researcher in the Archives’ reading rooms in Kew ordered the file, which originated from the British Consulate in Cairo in 1928.

The Foreign Office file detailed a criminal assault court case involving possession of narcotics and contained a sealed pouch holding several sachets of powder.

That was taken to the Collection Care Laboratory where it was analysed by conservation specialists who confirmed it was heroin.

Jeff James, Director of Operations and Services at the National Archives said: “From time to time unusual and occasionally valuable objects are unexpectedly discovered within our vast collection of 11 million records,; however finds of this nature are extremely rare.

“Whilst it highlights the diversity of our collection and its relevance to our nation’s history, this discovery also hints to more mysteries and untold tales yet to be uncovered, hidden deep within the archives.”

The National Archives is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice and looks after and makes available to the public historical records dating back over 1,000 years including the Domesday Book and MI5 files.

Other unusual items found there include the plaster, polychromed and partially glazed death mask of Dr John Yonge, Dean of York and Master of the Rolls from 1508-1516, a red pyjama suit from a 1932 police raid on a private ballroom in London which was produced in evidence in court after allegations men were wearing women’s clothing, and a mummified rat skeleton found in fragments of parchment which always proves a particular favourite with school groups visiting the Archives’ museum.