Super sleuths find stolen bell
Amateur detective work helped police to track down a precious naval heirloom, which was stolen from a Hayling family in January.
The brass bell, from the submarine HMS Telemachus, has been returned to its owners, after a lengthy search involving antiques dealers and an international internet sales site.
During World War II, the bell belonged to the Royal Naval submarine HMS Telemachus. When the sub was finally decommissioned in 1961, the beautifully engraved bell was presented to the longest serving officer, the late Lieutenant Commander Peter Hay, who proudly hung it in the porch of his home in Bacon Lane.
Sadly, Peter Hay died in November 2005, and his widow Ishbell was greatly saddened by the loss of this family memento.
The burglary was reported to the police – and Peter Hay's daughter, Kirsteen Steel, also started her own search, enlisting the help of her godfather, Hayling Islander John Lea.
Hayling police constable Phil Barron, the investigating officer, explained that the bell had changed hands several times since January, being sold first to a local antiques shop, then to other dealers.
Eventually, it was placed on the internet site, eBay, by an unsuspecting dealer in Dartmouth, who agreed to sell it to a collector in the USA for 3,000.
"We visited all sorts of places looking for the bell," said Kirsteeen, "including scrap metal merchants, car boot sales and antiques dealers. My priority was just to get the bell back.
"We put up posters, contacted the local newspapers and spent a lot of time trying to trace it through eBay. We passed on all the information we found to the police."
Luckily, a Hayling friend remembered seeing the bell being offered for sale on eBay and kept a record of the item number. Police were then able to locate the bell, just before it was shipped out of the country.
Finally, a family friend collected the bell from Dartmouth and brought it back to Hayling Island. It is now being kept in a safe place, until the family has decided how it should be displayed.
Kirsteen said: "We heard that the police had found the bell on the day before my mother's birthday. We were all absolutely thrilled and the news was a great birthday present for her.
"The bell always had a special significance for the family and now it has an even more incredible story! I am hoping to hang it up somewhere, with all the newspaper cuttings on the wall around it.
"I have two sons and I hope that eventually it will be passed on to them. It's a real family heirloom."
The police were also delighted with the result. Hayling police sergeant Steve Pratley told the Hayling Islander: "I am pleased to say that, following a lengthy investigation, which included liaison with another force, the bell has now been re-united with its rightful owners.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the public who came forward and assisted in this investigation.
"It shows that both the police and the community in Hayling want to work together to beat crime."
A 45-year-old man from Hayling Island has been charged with burglary in connection with this incident.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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