Treasure to be returned
HISTORIC treasure and artefacts found by a group of Suffolk and Norfolk divers was due to be returned today to the Italian authorities.The five divers discovered the 160-year-old wreck of the Pollux near the island of Elba, close to Italy, laden with £70,000-worth of gold, diamonds and antiques.
HISTORIC treasure and artefacts found by a group of Suffolk and Norfolk divers was due to be returned today to the Italian authorities.
The five divers discovered the 160-year-old wreck of the Pollux near the island of Elba, close to Italy, laden with £70,000-worth of gold, diamonds and antiques.
But they later learned their salvage operation was illegal under Italian law and their hoard was seized from a London auction house in a joint operation by British and Italian police.
The group had originally intended to explore the Glen Logan, a merchant ship sunk by a U-boat during the First World War.
They did not have permission to investigate the Pollux, which was laying in Italian waters, and although they declared their find to the Receiver of Wrecks, but did not notify the Italian authorities.
Now Detective Sergeant Vernon Rapley, the head of the Metropolitan Police's arts and antiques unit, has left the UK for Florence to present the artefacts to the Italian minister for culture. They are then expected to be given to a museum in Pisa.
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David Dixon, dive leader and a director of Risdon Beazley, said the group had believed the wreck to be in international waters.
Also in the team of divers were Jerry Sullivan, from Woodbridge, Kerr Sinclair, from Corton, near Lowestoft, and Nicholas and Terence Pearson, from Great Yarmouth.
The hoard they found contained 311 gold coins, 2,000 silver coins, several diamonds, a gold locket, thought to contain a lock of Napoleon's hair, and chinaware.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the ship had been carrying many wealthy passengers when it went down in 135 metres of water.
Det Sgt Rapley said the investigation was a good example of British and Italian law enforcement working together.
"I am delighted that we were able to stop these artefacts from being sold into the open market and return them to their rightful owners, the Italian people," he added.