Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Friday, 23 May 2008 11:11 UK

Australian ex-PM Howard robbed

By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

John Howard (file image)
Mr Howard was Australia's prime minister for more than 10 years

Burglars have broken into the home of former Australian Prime Minister John Howard and stolen an undisclosed amount of jewellery.

Mr Howard was in the West Indies at the time watching a cricket match.

The police were alerted after an automatic alarm was tripped at the house.

Mr Howard was prime minister of Australia for more than 10 years, but lost to Labor leader Kevin Rudd in a general election last year.

On Thursday morning, newspapers carried reports that the former leader was about to fulfil a long-time ambition by watching the Australian cricket team play a test match in the West Indies.

On Thursday afternoon, his house in Sydney was broken into and thieves made off with the jewellery.

Nobody was at home at the time - his wife, Janette, was also in Jamaica about to watch the cricket.

After being thrown out of office in last November's election, the Howards had to leave their beloved harbour-side official residence overlooking the Sydney Opera House and move into a more modest home in one of city's northern suburbs.

But despite stepping up patrols in this leafy neighbourhood, the police were unable to prevent the break-in.

They were alerted only after the thieves tripped an automatic alarm.

Mr Howard was told of the break-in just as he was about to leave for the cricket.

At least he got to see a good day's play. Australia dominated, with a century from captain Ricky Ponting.

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