18 Nov 2011

Jail for military medal thief

5:20 pm on 18 November 2011

The former curator of the National Army Museum at Waiouru has been jailed for three years over the theft of hundreds of medals.

Keith Davies, 57, had previously admitted stealing 750 medals from the organisation.

He was sentenced in Wellington District Court on Friday on charges including theft as a servant, false accounting and obtaining by deception.

Judge Bruce Davidson said Davies began taking items home from the museum without authorisation to work on them, and after realising how easy it was to remove them, began stealing them.

He said Davies went to considerable effort to conceal his dishonesty, replacing some of the stolen medals with others to make it look like a set was complete, and altering computer records to hide his offending.

Judge Davidson read from a victim impact statement in which a person who had donated medals to the museum said their family would not forgive Davies.

"How Mr Davies can ever justify his reprehensible actions as guardians of our loved one's memories is beyond belief. Our family will never forgive him, how do you replace the irreplaceable," the statement read.

Some 20 victim impact statements were put before the court.

Judge Davidson said Davies offending was premeditated and took place over a long time.

He said it was a gross and wholesale abuse of trust.

Judge Davidson said the items stolen had a significant value in money terms - the medals were worth $235,000 - and the sentimental and historical value was incalculable.

Davies was ordered to pay $50,000 reparation.

However, the museum's current director, Retired Col Ray Seymour, says that is nowhere near enough to cover the cost of buying back the missing medals.