County news: Sussex man arrested over shipwreck theft

Police news.
Police news.

A 56-year-old man from Winchelsea has been arrested in connection with the reported theft of items from a sunken Royal Navy warship in the English Channel.

HMS Hermes was a protected cruiser built in the 1890s and converted into an aircraft ferry and depot ship ready for the start of the First World War in 1914.

It was sunk by a German submarine in the Dover Strait in October of that year with the loss of 44 lives.

Earlier this year Kent Police’s Rural Task Force was informed that a number of historical artefacts had been reported stolen from the wreck.

Following an investigation in partnership with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the Marine Management Organisation, the Receiver of Wreck, Sussex Police, Historic England and the French authorities, officers executed warrants at two separate addresses in Winchelsea and Teynham, near Faversham on Monday October 19.

A 56-year-old man from Winchelsea was arrested on suspicion of theft and fraud and released on bail pending further enquiries until 22 February 2016.

A 55-year-old man from Teynham was arrested on suspicion of theft and released on bail pending further enquiries until 22 February 2016.

Officers also seized a number of historical artefacts they believed to have been stolen from HMS Hermes and other underwater locations.

PC Preston Frost of Kent Police’s Rural Task Force said: “We are proud of our close working relationship with our partner agencies and take a robust approach to ensuring important historical artefacts do not end up in the hands of people who are not entitled to them.

“We will continue to investigate anyone suspected of stealing items from sunken wrecks and will bring prosecutions against them when appropriate.”

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