Europe

Canadian returns stolen Pompeii relic after 50 years

Fragment of ruin from Pompeii
Image caption Pompeii is one of the world's greatest archaeological treasures

A woman from Canada has handed back a piece of ruins from the ancient city of Pompeii more than 50 years after she first took it.

The woman picked up a small decoration, which was part of a theatre entrance, during her honeymoon in Italy.

She put it in her bag and took it back with her to Montreal.

Pompeii is one of Italy's most visited sites. A sudden eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD buried and largely preserved the town under ash.

The woman - who has not been named - kept it with her for half a century but clearly her actions nagged away at her. So this month she travelled back to Italy to hand back the fragment.

Captain Carmine Elefante, who runs the police's Cultural Heritage Protection Group in Naples, says that the woman - now in her 70s - was in tears when she gave it back.

"This has no precedents, the fact that someone was pushed by the weight of their conscience to hand back what they had taken," he told me.

He said that though the fragment was not enormously valuable, "it was an element of ornament at the quadriporticus [rectangular open area] in Pompeii, where everything has its value".

"It is a testimony of past civilisations," he added.

The woman did not receive a fine. The police say they hope her actions will encourage others who may have taken off with pieces of Pompeii to do the same.

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