An urn containing the ashes of legendary psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud has been smashed in a botched burglary.

The break-in at London's Golders Green Crematorium is believed to have occurred on New Year's Eve (31Dec13).

Staff discovered the valuable ancient Greek urn, which was part of Freud's personal collection of treasures, broken on the floor following the attempted theft.

Police are investigating the incident and security at the crematorium has since been stepped up.

Detective Constable Daniel Candler says, "This was a despicable act by a callous thief. Even leaving aside the financial value of the irreplaceable urn and the historical significance of to whom it related, the fact that someone set out to take an object knowing it contained the last remains of a person defies belief."

The urn contained the ashes of both Freud and his wife Martha Bernays. The psychoanalysis pioneer died in 1939 and his ashes have been interred at the crematorium ever since.