Thief of nine VC medals is sentenced to six years

A habitual criminal with 150 convictions has pleaded guilty in Auckland District Court to stealing 96 medals from a New Zealand museum. He had performed the theft while on bail.

The medals were held at the Waiouru Army Museum, which the thief broke into in December 2007.

The man who assisted him is due in court next week.

Judge Hubble sentenced the thief to six years in jail for the theft, saying that he had taken "icons of New Zealand culture and history" - plus another five years for a complex web of thefts and frauds.

The criminal's other thefts have included poems by Colin McCahon, an ancient bible and a Charles Goldie painting.

Large rewards had been offered for the return of the medals, including NZ$200,000 by the leading VC expert Lord Ashcroft.

The man actually gained NZ$100,000 from his crime, but has now returned it. He is already serving a term of more than two years.

The thief, whose name is legally withheld while his accomplice is still on trial, expressed regret in court.

"I apologise to all the servicemen and women, past and present who have served this country. I did it for my own personal gain and I sincerely apologise for everything I've done."

Some court attendees doubted that his words were genuine.

The collection stolen included nine Victoria Crosses, including the awards of Charles Upham, one of only three people to receive two VCs, after Arthur Martin-Leake and Noel Godfrey Chavasse.

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