Medals awarded to New Zealand's most highly decorated servicemen stolen in a military museum heist have been recovered, police announced today.
The priceless collection, awarded to 12 of New Zealand's most highly decorated war heroes, was stolen from the Waiouru Army Museum last December.
Operation Valour inquiry head Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Bensemann said all 12 sets of medals had been recovered in good condition and had been verified as being those stolen from Waiouru.
The medals were returned as a result of a $300,000 reward being offered last month by Lord Michael Ashcroft, the owner of the largest collection of Victoria Crosses, and a Nelson businessman.
"The reward was offered for information leading to the safe return of the medals and that has encouraged a person to come forward and facilitate the return of the medals to police," Mr Bensemann said.
An amount has been paid and no immunity from prosecution or support for reduction in any sentence for any offender was given in return, Mr Bensemann said.
"New Zealand Police celebrate the return of these national treasures. The recovery of the medals was the top priority. Nevertheless, our job won't be complete until we find the perpetrators of this burglary and bring them to court.
"The file will remain open for as long as it takes. My team will continue to work on this inquiry and I would urge the public to continue to provide us with any information which may come to the front of mind. The public shouldn't assume that because the inquiry is a couple of months long we have gathered all the relevant information. Even the smallest snippet of information can be of use in such investigations," Mr Bensemann said.
"What I can say is that the recovery of the medals has certainly narrowed the focus of the investigation, the net is closing and we are continuing to work very hard at pulling it tight."
The collection included nine Victoria Crosses, two George Medals and one Albert medals. The recipients of those medals were Captain C Upham (VC and bar), Brigadier L Andrew (VC, DSO), Captain S Frickleton (VC), Sergeant J Hinton (VC), Sergeant A Hulme (VC), Major R Judson (VC, DCM, MM), Lieutenant Colonel H Laurent (VC), Sergeant J Grant (VC NZEF), Sergeant K Elliot (VC), Lance Corporal D Russell (GC), Sergeant M Hudson (GC), Captain R Riding (AM).
Mr Bensemann said the medals have been sent for forensic examination. This may take some weeks and they will then be returned.
Mr Bensemann said that anybody with information can ring the 0800 valour line.