Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Stolen medals returned to marines

WO Mike Bowen (l), Sgt Dave Strickson and Det Sgt Giles Hook: Pic MoD/Chris Winter
Det Sgt Hook (r) returning some of the medals stolen from 42 Commando

Medals stolen from Royal Marines while they were serving in Afghanistan have been returned to their owners.

The 33 medals were taken from 42 Commando at Bickleigh Barracks in Plymouth by former marine Craig Firth.

The 23-year-old was jailed last month, alongside his uncle Geoffrey Jenkin, 34, who had sold the medals on.

Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) spent months tracking down the missing medals - including some which were recovered from a collector in Perth, Australia.

Det Sgt Giles Hook, who oversaw the investigation, said he was delighted to be able to return the medals to their rightful owners.

To get these originals back is absolutely fantastic
Lt Col Woody Page, Royal Marines

"The two men who were responsible for their theft and sale are both now serving prison sentences but it is even more satisfying that we've been able to take this extra step to give back much of what was taken," he said.

The investigation began in 2007 when the MoD Police were alerted by 42 Commando that an Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan was being offered for sale on the internet auction site, eBay.

Enquiries confirmed it was one of a package of 31 similar campaign medals that had arrived at the barracks, but which had subsequently gone missing.

It was also established that the eBay seller had acquired his medal in good faith, at a medals fair.

Operational service

As the enquiry progressed, a number of marines contacted the military police about the theft of medals - some of which had been stolen during burglaries of the barrack block rooms.

"These medals mean a great deal to the men to which they are awarded - their value goes far beyond their monetary worth," said Lt Col Woody Page of the Royal Marines Naval Command Headquarters in Portsmouth.

"Replacements can be made but to get these originals back is absolutely fantastic."

The theft included medals which had been awarded for operational service in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Northern Ireland. The haul also included United Nations medals, Long Service and Good Conduct medals, Queen's Jubilee medals and a rarely awarded Accumulated Campaign Service Medal.

Firth, of Porthleven in Cornwall, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years at Plymouth Crown Court.

Jenkin, of Helston, Cornwall, was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

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