Catching medal thieves was ‘best experience’By Alice Murphy
May 25, 2010
The investigating officer who brought medal thieves to justice says he has taken “the best memories and experiences” from the case.
Sergeant Stewart Codling, who managed to retrieve Major Ray Eke’s medals from a dealer after spotting them on an online auction website, says he was delighted with the results of the trial.
getwokingham reported how two men had been given suspended sentences, community service orders and fines at Reading Crown Court after being found guilty of the thefts.
Sgt Codling, who works for Thames Valley Police, said: “Going from the stage of arresting them and seeing that through to them being found guilty and being sentenced was great.
“Thinking about Major Eke being able to go back out on parade is as good as it gets in terms of what we do.
“We don’t like vulnerable people being picked on so when the pair were found guilty we knew we had seen it through.”
Joseph Smith, 40, from Rainbow Park in Winnersh, was found guilty of the theft of Major Eke’s MBE and Second World War medals after the jury found he took them under the pretence of showing them to his wife.
His cousin, Henry Gregory, 60, then sold the medals – valued at £2,700 – to a dealer, claiming he found them at a car boot sale.
Major Eke, 88, who lives with his wife Ruby in Emmbrook, is a former town councillor who was awarded the MBE in 1967 for his efforts in the war.
Sgt Codling said: “You have to put your faith in the 12 people on the jury because sometimes you listen to the closing speeches and wonder, ‘Is that the case that I investigated?’.
“But you always feel confident the jury will come through and I was thoroughly delighted for him and for Ruby.
“The guilty verdict helped restore his confidence in his honesty and memory which has been severely tested and questioned at court.
“It was not just about the sentence, it was that [Smith and Gregory] were found guilty.”
The medals were stolen from Major Eke in July 2008 and the case finished with sentencing on Thursday, May 6.
Smith was given 18 weeks’ jail (suspended) and 200 hours’ community service while Gregory got 10 weeks’ jail (suspended) and 50 hours’ community service.
Each must pay back half the £2,700 to the antiques dealer who unwittingly bought the medals.
Sgt Codling said: “It has taken a year and a half’s worth of energy from the phone call which said the medals needed to be retrieved. To go through arresting Joe Smith and finding Ray’s medals at auction and returning them was just amazing.
“Ray is a thoroughly good person and completely honest.”
Before the medals were found, police officers had a whip-round to raise the cash to replace Major Eke’s MBE award and the money was later donated to Help For Heroes.