Rawene, NZ: Cursed' stolen artifact returned to Rawene

Cursed’ stolen artifact returned to Rawene

Last updated 15:40 30/09/2010

A valuable whalebone artefact stolen from an historic Northland house earlier this month has been returned undamaged to the Historic Places Trust.

The whalebone whip handle was stolen from Clendon House in Rawene, west of Kaikohe, and police believe it may have been returned because it had a tapu (curse ) on it.

“The person who took it… every time they stub their toe they’ll think hell is starting to drop on them,” said Senior Constable Jeff Cramp, from the Rawene police.

“With all artefacts strongly connected to Maoridom, if they are removed or ill-treated, they carry an automatic curse,” Mr Cramp said. He said it was returned “in person by an unnamed person”, who probably knew the thief, but no one would be charged unless police learned the identity, Mr Cramp said.

“It was a simple case of that (unnamed) person saying ‘I can get my hands on it. I will get it and get it back to you, no questions asked.’ That is what happened,” Mr Cramp said.

“We are extremely grateful it has come back to its place of origin.”

The whalebone whip handle was a precious taonga (treasure) and the trust was delighted to have it back safely at Clendon house, said trust spokesman Gordon Hewston.

Mr Hewston said security had been upgraded at the house, built in 1869. The whip handle belonged to George Thomas Clendon, the oldest son of James Reddy Clendon and his wife Jane Takotowi Clendon.

George Clendon was regarded by local Maori as a significant rangatira (chief) and was the official native translator for Hokianga.

Mr Hewston said the whip handle was believed to be the highly-prized possession of a rangatira and it had probably never left Clendon House until it was stolen.

The trust said it was probably stolen from a display case when the house was open to the public.

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