$200,000 ‘The Crown’ Theft Almost Sparked Murder Investigation After Police Found Dummy Corpse in River

A dummy corpse from Netflix hit series “The Crown” nearly sparked a murder investigation, the production designers have revealed.

In February of this year, during the shooting on location of Season 5 (which is set to be released this Wednesday, Nov. 9), thieves stole $200,000 worth of antique props contained in two large trucks from the show’s set. But they threw out a dummy corpse they also found alongside the antiques.

Set decorator Alison Harvey told Variety that the props mostly related to episode 6, which looks at the relations between the British royals and Soviet Russia.

“It’s a shame because it was some of the loveliest antiques that we could actually get our hands on because we were trying to recreate the Russian Imperial family and the wealth of ancient Russia,” Harvey said. “So there was quite a lot lost, which was very sad. We just made accommodation in the set for what was missing and it was sort of fine but it was a sad moment.”

“I think the most amusing bit was the police were treating it as a murder enquiry because one of the dummies, the prosthetics, was floating face down in the river next to where the theft had been so they immediately thought ‘We’ve got a murder,’ but actually it was just a rubber body,” she added. “That took a bit of time to work out.”

Production designer Martin Childs concurred, explaining: “Finding the antiques was not their priority because they [thought they] had a murder to investigate.”

The episode in question opens with a flashback in which the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, are executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries. The family are led from their beds into a barren hut where they are shot and bayoneted. In a later scene the revolutionaries bury the corpses in a mass grave in the woods. The episode deals with Queen Elizabeth II’s request to Russian leader Boris Yelstin to give the family – who were related to her husband Prince Philip – a proper burial.

Harvey said the dummy corpse found in the river looked exactly like a real dead body, which is why the police were initially confused. “It was worth £13,000 [$15,000],” she said of the prosthetic body. “It was absolutely identical to a naked [dead] person. It was probably quite alarming for the police actually when they fished it out.”

Less amusingly, Childs said the theft was a real blow for the crew. “It was a really, really ghastly thing to happen,” he said. “But we made use of mirrors to help us through that because the other thing mirrors do is double up the amount of stuff you’ve got in the set.”

Harvey said that some props survived only because one truck had gotten lost on the way to the location. “[It] wasn’t parked where the theft took place,” she explained. The rest they had to scramble together to dress the set. “We had some pieces that we owned that we brought in, supplemented it but whether it would have been a better set with those bits I don’t know.”

The police have not found any of the stolen items, she confirmed: “None have been recovered, no.”

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