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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
RAF grave plunderer 'deeply sorry'
RAF Tangmere Museum
A memorial to George Kosh stands at RAF Tangmere
An aviation historian has apologised to the family of a Second World War fighter pilot after digging up the RAF hero's final resting place.

Andrew Saunders, 47, was speaking at Hove Crown Court where he faced charges of tampering with the remains of Flying Officer George Kosh.

The charges related to the excavation of a Hawker Tempest aircraft which crashed in June 1944.

Saunders admitted one offence and was given a conditional discharge, but three other charges against him were dropped by the Crown.


You are by nature an honest, industrious, compassionate and sensitive man

Judge David Rennie
The case was brought after a member of the excavation party claimed Saunders "fiddled through" Mr Kosh's torso left in the wreckage of his plane before throwing his remains into a plastic bag.

But a judge at Hove Crown Court rejected the statement of Anthony Rogers, a photographer on the 1995 dig at Rye Marsh Farm near Winchelsea, East Sussex, saying it was fuelled by lies.

For the defence, Martin Hurst said his client faced a "moral dilemma" when he and others discovered small fragments of bone believed to be those of 21-year-old Mr Kosh.

Passing sentence Judge David Rennie said to Saunders: "The material I have read tells me you are by nature an honest, industrious, compassionate and sensitive man who has spent years dealing with issues that require these virtues due to the feelings of relatives."

Many of those relatives wrote to the court in support of Saunders who has helped locate the remains of several wartime pilots.

'Callous'

After the hearing, Saunders said: "I feel very sorry that matters have come this far.

"The MoD were anxious to secure a conviction and based their case on the lies of a third party.

"The MoD has callously turned the family into victims.

"The family were not aware of the real facts."

The Kosh family had always believed that the pilot had been buried during an official ceremony at Hawkinge Cemetery in Kent in 1944.

Mr Kosh's sister Elizabeth Bowden declined to comment about the case.

Mr Kosh was credited with bringing down a V1 bomb destined for London.

A bracelet and amulet belonging to Mr Kosh have been put on view at a museum set up by Mr Saunders at RAF Tangmere, near Chichester, where a tribute to Mr Kosh was erected.


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16 Oct 01 | England
11 Sep 01 | UK
14 Aug 01 | UK
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