Stolen carvings to be returned

HISTORICAL wooden carvings stolen more than three decades ago from a Suffolk church are to be returned after they were discovered on an internet auction site.

HISTORICAL wooden carvings stolen more than three decades ago from a Suffolk church are to be returned after they were discovered on an internet auction site.

A US broker today said that the two wooden carvings, which were stolen from the Church of St Nicholas in Denston, near Haverhill, 34 years ago would be returned to the church after its vicar made an international appeal for them not to be sold.

British authorities have never determined who sawed off the lion and lamb figures from pews at the church but it has emerged that the American couple who have had them since the early 1970s bought them from an antiques store in Ipswich soon after their theft.

Paul Eash, an eBay broker who had been selling the carvings on behalf of the couple from north-eastern Ohio, received an e-mail this week from the Rev Ian Finn, who wrote that the figures belonged to the Suffolk church.

In his e-mail he wrote: “A church warden remembers that the two pew ends were sawn off and taken away.”

Subsequent e-mails from Suffolk police, the pastoral secretary of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and the chairman of the church's building and trust convinced Eash, of Chase & Co Ministries in Seville, about 30 miles south of Cleveland, Ohio, that the claim was legitimate.

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He shut down the auction, despite several days left of scheduled bidding, which had reached $28US (£14).

Mr Eash said a couple from the nearby American city of Wadsworth bought the items in 1972 - the year they were stolen - at an antique shop in Ipswich.

When the couple, who want to remain anonymous, learned the history of the figures, they insisted on returning them to the church.

The carvings are to be shipped back once Mr Eash determines the customs regulations for historical artefacts.

The Church of St Nicholas has been used for worship for more than 500 years.

Mr Eash said: “How do you put a value on something from the 1500s?”

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