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The RSA says the World War 1 medals stolen from a package destined for Dunedin will be almost impossible to sell and is pleading with the culprits not to dispose of them.
Police on both sides of the Tasman are hunting a thief who took 12 medals awarded to Kiwi Anzac trooper Herbert George Garratt, who served with the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade at Gallipoli and the Royal New Zealand Air Force in World War 2, and was a founding member of the Wellington Gallipoli Veterans' Association.
Six medals, six miniature medals, a Gallipoli lapel badge, an RSA badge, a ribbon bar, service records and medal photographs were sent to a Dunedin address in a padded post bag from a Melbourne post office on February 4.
But when the bag arrived in Dunedin on February 12, the contents had been tampered with and only the service records and photos remained.
The bag had been resealed with tape. RSA chief executive officer David Moger was ''utterly shocked and appalled'' at the theft.
''It may well have been that they [the medals] were on their way to a family who was hoping to wear them on Anzac Day.
''To have lost them at this moment is absolutely awful.''
He speculated the culprit(s) took the medals because they thought they might be able to sell them to a private collector.
''There are also authentic medal collectors, but I would like to think they would check the provenance of the medals before they took possession of them.
''Our deepest fear is that they [the culprit(s)] will realise that these are quite hot property, as it were, and that they are getting a lot of attention, and they would just dispose of them in some shape or form.''
That would be an ''utter disaster and such a travesty''.
''They represent something that can never be repeated. That service and sacrifice can never be repeated, and the personal value of them is huge.''
He called on the culprit(s) to put the medals in an envelope and anonymously drop them into any RSA so they could be returned to their rightful owner as soon as possible.
Dunedin medal collector Brian Connor said there had been an upsurge in interest in similar medals in the past couple of years, as the centenary of World War 1 arrived.
The medals stolen were mostly standard issue, apart from a long-service medal.
Fifty years after the war, the Government issued a Gallipoli medallion and a lapel badge.
While the medals might not be expensive to buy, they would be valued by collectors.