Campaigners who fought tooth and nail to keep the Sekhemka statue in Northampton fear it will never be seen again after the Egyptian monument was exported to the United States.
The 4,500-year-old statue, believed to depict a court scribe, used to take pride of place in the “Life and Soul” exhibition at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery.
Many townsfolk will even remember being able to touch it while it was on display.
But in 2014 Northampton Borough Council controversially sold the item at auction for nearly £16 million in order to fund a museum extension. The anonymous bidder was rumoured to be from Qatar, though that has never been confirmed.
In June the Egyptian Embassy fuelled hope of swooping in to buy Sehemka so it could go on display at the British Museum, London.
But all hopes of it being kept on public display in England faded in August, when a temporary export ban on it was finally lifted.
This week the Department for Culture Media and Sport has confirmed an application was made to transfer the statue over to the United States.
Chairman of the Save Sekhemka Action Group , Gunilla Loe, believes Sekhemka is now destined for a private collection - forever.
“I don’t think we will ever see it again, unless for some reason it is sold on again,” she said.
“Local politicians hoodwinked people into thinking it was not important. But now it has gone for good.”
The Save Sekhemka group has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to find out who the buyer is and what part of the US it has travelled to.
The statue was donated to Northampton Museum by the family of Lord Northampton, Spencer Compton, in 1880 under a covenant that had to be lifted before the sale. He received £6.74 million from the proceeds.
A fellow campaigner, Sue Edwards, felt it was ironic current council leader Mary Markham could recently step down as a result of a wanting to lift the covenant protecting the Barn Owl pub from changing use, when her predecessor David Mackintosh stood his ground over the Sekhemka covenant so doggedly.
She added that the news it has travelled to the US has still come as a shock.
“I really believed we would win, I just though it was so important,” she said.
“Even right up until the last few days I thought there would be an about turn. I fear it’s gone now.”