Stolen haul of military medals recovered in New Zealand

Other News Materials 16 February 2008 08:07 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - About 100 medals, including nine Victoria Crosses - the highest award for military gallantry in the British Commonwealth - have been recovered after being stolen from the New Zealand Army museum in December, police said on Saturday.

They included the Victoria Cross cross and bar awarded to New Zealander Charles Upham - the only man to win the award in combat twice in its 151-year history - for acts of bravery in Crete and North Africa in 1941 and 1942 during the Second World War.

Police announced last month a record reward of 300,000 New Zealand dollars (234,000 US dollars) for information leading to the recovery of the medals, which were stolen in a lightning early morning smash and grab raid on the museum near an army base at Waiouru, 300 kilometres north of Wellington, on December 2.

The reward money included 200,000 New Zealand dollars offered by British collector Lord Michael Ashcroft, who owns 146 Victoria Crosses, about a 10th of all those awarded since 1856 when the medal was created by Britain's Queen Victoria.

The remaining balance was offered by a New Zealand businessman who wanted to remain anonymous.

Police said they had made no arrests in connection with the theft.

"These medals are New Zealand's national treasures, with a value beyond any monetary worth," Defence Minister Phil Goff said.

"Along with other New Zealanders I also hope that those responsible for the theft will, in due course, be held to account."