The evaluation documents on IVF pioneer Robert Edwards, who won the 2010 Nobel Medicine Prize, were stolen a few months before the award was announced, the Nobel committee said Wednesday.
The file was made up of written documents belonging to the Nobel committee, and had been "kept in a briefcase locked in the baggage compartment of the car" of a committee member, said Goeran Hansson, the head of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine that attributes the prize.
"The thief broke into the car, found the briefcase and stole it," he told AFP, adding he could divulge that Edwards' name "was mentioned in the documents," since "now we know of course that it was Robert Edwards who got the Nobel Prize last year."
The theft had not however altered the committee's decision to hand the award to the 85-year-old Briton known as "the father of the test tube baby", since "we cannot let this kind of actions influence our decisions," Hansson said.
The documents, which provided evaluations of several candidates, did not spell out clearly that Edwards would be the winner. They were stolen in the spring and the final decision was not taken until the first Monday of October.
Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) did a large spread on Edwards ahead of the announcement, reporting he would be the winner, but Hansson refused to speculate on whether the paper had any connection to the theft.
"We know that there was this scoop in SvD, but I had no contact with SvD before we announced the prize," was all he would say on the matter.
As for the committee member who had brought the documents home in his car to read through them in the evening, Hansson said he had not been sanctioned.
"We are not going to punish him because a burglar broke into his car. We don't intend to punish the victim," he said, not divulging the committee member's name.
The committee had taken additional security measures since the theft to ensure that the Nobel jury's deliberations remain confidential, Hansson said.
Explore further: New anthology offers comprehensive insight into the life and works of Margaret Thatcher