Grieving woman in jewellery row

A GRIEVING Ipswich woman is reeling today after Dutch customs officials seized jewellery inherited from her dead mum.Matilda Southgate, of Oak Hill Lane, Ipswich was returning to England after travelling to her mother's funeral in The Gambia when she was stopped at customs.

A GRIEVING Ipswich woman is reeling today after Dutch customs officials seized jewellery inherited from her dead mum.

Matilda Southgate, of Oak Hill Lane, Ipswich was returning to England after travelling to her mother's funeral in The Gambia when she was stopped at customs.

Officials searched her luggage and discovered two necklaces and two earrings left to Mrs Southgate by her mother.

Mrs Southgate, 25, said: “They said it looked like a lot of jewellery and we had to pay tax because it was from outside the EU.

“They tested it and said it was 24 carat gold and I said I don't think it is, I think it is gold plated.

“They called a guy and he said 'I am a gold specialist and I say it is gold'.

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“He took a knife and started scraping it and I said you can't tell by scraping it.”

Mrs Southgate, who is heavily pregnant was left standing for more than half an hour while officials tested the jewellery.

She was eventually allowed to pass through customs with an earring from each set and a pendant from a necklace.

Officials told her she would have to pay 390 euros to take the rest of her jewellery home and she eventually gave up her protests, fearing she may miss her next flight.

Since arriving home in Ipswich she has had the jewellery valued at Berridges in the town centre. They said it is gold plated and of little value.

Mrs Southgate is now attempting to get the jewellery back but when she calls customs she gets through to a recorded message in Dutch.

She is also concerned about the cost of flying to The Netherlands to collect the jewellery and cannot currently travel due to her pregnancy.

She also has two children and an elderly grandmother to care for at home.

Mrs Southgate added: “I'm really sad and this is bringing back everything again.

“When they took it I was not willing to leave the airport but I couldn't get anywhere and would miss my flight. I hadn't seen my children for three weeks and it was really upsetting.

“The necklace was my mother's favourite.”

Renee Wesdorp, spokeswoman for Dutch customs, said she could not comment on specific cases.

She said: “We do hold jewellery because of what it is supposed to be worth. You have to pay taxes if it is more than 175 euros that is the rule. If it is more you are allowed to take it but you have to pay.

“If she thinks she is right then I suggest she files a complaint.

“In her letter she can explain what happened and when it happened and a motivation on why she thinks her case was handled the wrong way.”

N Have you had a problem at Customs? Write to us at Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@evenignstar.co.uk>

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