In a bizarre criminal case, an Upper Hutt man has been charged with stealing two human toes from an exhibition displaying human corpses and organs.

The 28-year-old appeared in the Auckland District Court today before a Community Magistrate charged with stealing two deceased human toes from the Body Worlds Vital exhibition in Auckland on May 4.

The toes, which have been returned to the exhibition, are valued at $5500, according to court documents.

The man, who has interim name suppression, is also charged with improperly interfering with the dead body of an unknown person.


A warrant for his arrest had been issued after he failed to appear earlier in the day but was later withdrawn.

The accused entered intimated guilty pleas to both charges and was remanded on bail to reappear in the Wellington District Court later this year.

A dancing cadaver in a previous Body Worlds exhibition. Photo / Supplied
A dancing cadaver in a previous Body Worlds exhibition. Photo / Supplied

Body Worlds Vital is a travelling exhibition of human remains that have been preserved through plastination, their fluids and fats swapped with plastics.

The show arrived in New Zealand in April, the first time it had been in the country.

Dr Angelina Whalley and her husband Dr Gunther von Hagens, who invented plastination in the 1970s at the University of Heidelberg to teach students about anatomy, established Body Worlds in 1997.

Since then more than 17,000 people have donated their bodies to von Hagens' Institute for Plastination, which also sends plastinated specimens to medical schools around the world.

More than 45 million people worldwide have seen the exhibition.

The exhibition remains on display at Auckland's Princes Wharf until next month.