A Falklands war veteran who had his medals stolen 15 years ago has been reunited with them after his wife spotted them for sale online.
Anthony Paterson, 57, from Jarrow, County Durham, who served in the Royal Navy for 24 years, was left heartbroken when he was informed that his South Atlantic Medal and 2002 Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal had been stolen while he was on holiday.
However when his wife Lorraine spotted the sentimental relics up for sale on a medal website just three months ago she contacted the police.
Northumbria Police located the business selling the medal before asking their counterparts at the Metropolitan Police to seize them.
Officers were then able to visit the veteran at his home and reunite him with his medals, on July 20.
Mr Paterson said: ‘It was the best birthday present – a wonderful end to a long story.
‘Over the years, I lost hope that I’d ever get them back – so this was an incredible surprise and I’m really grateful to the police who were able to bring them home to me.’
The veteran revealed how he came close to finding the medals ten years ago – after his friend saw them in a pawnbrokers in Guisborough.
While they were inscribed with Mr Paterson’s name, his close friend thought he had decided to sell them.
The veteran continued: ‘But when I travelled down the next day, the shop said they’d sold them only a couple of days earlier to a private collector, and it was going to be almost impossible to trace them.
‘I felt that pain all over again, having come so close to getting my hands on them. In the years since, I’ve sporadically checked online on medal websites to see if they’d materialise again, but to no avail.’
However when his wife Lorraine decided to search online for ‘Falklands medals for sale’ she immediately caught sight of them on a London-based medal selling website.
Detective Sergeant Chris Raper-Smith, who spearheads the Southern Burglary Team based at Southwick Police Station and reunited Mr Paterson with his medals, said: ‘It’s a really nice end to the story.
‘Having something so sentimental and personal stolen, after such a distinguished service, it must have been absolutely horrendous for Anthony to have to come to terms with.
‘So often with these types of cases, the medals exchange hands so quickly and it’s very difficult to trace their whereabouts.
‘It was an absolute pleasure to be able to visit Anthony earlier this week and chat to him – and now his well-earned medals are back where they belong. I know it means a huge amount to him.’
Mr Paterson joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16 and served on HMS Brilliant during the Falklands War in 1982.
He then went on to serve on various ships including HMS Euryalus and HMS Illustrious – where he travelled to the Far East in 1997 to oversee the handover of Hong Kong to China.
After 24 years service, Mr Patterson left the Navy in 2004 as a Chief Petty Officer.
He opened a bar named ‘Jarrow Lad’ in Benidorm, before returning to the North-east in 2008.