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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 7, February 17, 2008, Article 26

NEW ZEALAND HAS ITS MEDALS BACK!

Jim Duncan reports: "The New Zealand Police announced on
Saturday 16/2 that a "third party" had returned  96 stolen
medals "in mint condition".  These included 9 Victoria Crosses,
two George Crosses and an Albert medal, all of which had been
stolen in a smash-and-grab raid on the NZ Army Museum at
Waiouru on 2 December.

"A reward of NZ$300,000 had been offered for 'information
leading to the safe return' of these incredibly valuable
tokens of heroism and sacrifice, and it was said on Saturday
that "a sum on money" would be transferred on Monday to the
third party - who was not involved with the theft.   A lawyer
has been negotiating for their return since mid January when
he was handed one set of them.

"The reward figure - the greatest ever offered in New Zealand
- was made up of $200,000 from Lord Michael Ashcroft (a VC
collector himself), and a Nelson businessman, Tom Sturgess.
But what part of this figure was to be passed on has not
been stated, although the lawyer said he was not getting
any part of it.

"This happy event confirms the NZ Police view that the medals
never left the country."

[This is wonderful news.  Below are links to some New Zealand
newspaper reports of the recovery.  -Editor]

"Military medals stolen in a museum heist in December have
been recovered and the net is closing on those who stole
them, police announced today.

"The priceless collection of 96 medals, awarded to 12 of New
Zealand's most highly decorated war heroes, was stolen from
the Waiouru Army Museum in the early hours of December 2."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

" 'Groovy' was how Nelson businessman Tom Sturgess felt
when police told him the reward he offered had led to the
recovery of precious military medals stolen in December's
museum heist."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

Auckland lawyer Chris Comeskey, who negotiated the return
of the medals, said he thought those who took them had
underestimated the strength of public feeling about their loss.

He believed the medals would have been returned even
without the $300,000 reward, part of which would now be
paid, and those involved had asked him to pass on their
apologies to New Zealanders.

He said since he began the negotiations in January he
"never doubted for a moment" that the medals would be
returned although "they could have hung on to them for
another 50 years".

He revealed the first of the medals the Sergeant MHudson
set including a George Cross was handed over to him in
mid-January as a sign of good faith.

The rest of the set of 96 medals including nine Victoria
Crosses, two George Crosses and one Albert Medal stolen
from the Waiouru Army Museum in a raid on December 2 was
returned on Friday afternoon when a contact of Comeskey's
walked into his Auckland city office at 1.30 and laid
them on his desk.

"I said, 'What took you so long?"'

Comeskey said he was almost overcome when he saw the
medals and felt like weeping.

"I was speechless, gobsmacked. It was just a most
incredible feeling of achievement. I was aware that
King George had handled the Upham set."

To read the complete article, see:
Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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