New Zealand Museum Theft Heart ripped out of museum; rare George Crosses and an Albert Medal were among those stolen

Monday, 03 December 2007200712030500

Colonel Raymond Seymour “aged 100 years” the moment he was told the nation’s military treasures were stolen under his watch.

The Waiouru Army Museum director, who took on the role this year following his retirement from the Army, said yesterday’s brazen medal theft had “ripped the guts” out of the country. Nine Victoria Crosses, including Charles Upham’s VC and Bar, two rare George Crosses and an Albert Medal were among those stolen.

“These are the nation’s treasures and how anyone can do this I just can’t work it out. All of of us here, from the custodians to all the staff are absolutely devastated,” Col Seymour said.

“I’ve aged 100 years today. I was already old but when they told me I thought my heart was going to drop out.

“But we’ll catch the bastards, there’s no doubt about that.”

Col Seymour said he been at a function in Taihape on Saturday night and drove past the museum northbound at 11pm, two hours prior to the theft.

Being the “good director” he is, he noted that all the right lights were on and all appeared quiet, before continuing north.

Police eventually tracked him down at 6am and told him of the break-in.

“I’ve still got a stranded wife in Taupo to explain to after I ran out this morning. I couldn’t even tell her then what was happening, I just had to leave.

“It’s the worst news I’ve ever received at 6am on a Sunday morning. It’s possibly the worst news I’ve ever received fullstop.”

Col Seymour said records indicate a security guard reached the scene within three minutes, a response time he was satisfied with.

General museum security would now be reviewed.

Ruapehu area police commander Inspector Steve Mastrovich said the offence appeared to be well-planned and executed.

Museum security alerted police when the alarm was set off at 1.10am. he said.

The thieves used tools to gain access to the building through a rear fire escape and headed straight to the three display cases in the Valour Alcove, where the medals were kept.

They smashed the reinforced glass and rifled through the Victoria Cross display cabinet, taking all the medals in the case.

A second case had about half its medals stolen, while the third was left unscathed, Mr Mastrovich said.

The burglars then escaped through a different fire escape before guards arrived.

Nothing else was touched.

A forensic examination was due to be completed today.

“It looks like they have known exactly where to go and what to target,” he said.

“We have to take it one step at a time, it’s too early to say who is responsible and why.

“It is a pretty audacious offence, a real insult to the country when you think what these medals represent.”

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