Rare Maori cloak pulled from auction after online threats

Chief Rewi Maniapoto Image copyright Burstow and Hewett
Image caption The cloak, worn by Chief Rewi Maniapoto, had been set to fetch up to £5,000

A rare cloak belonging to a Maori chief which was due to be sold at auction has been pulled after the sellers were bombarded with abuse from New Zealand.

The Maori Kakahu was due to fetch between £3,000 and £5,000 at an auction in East Sussex on 18 September.

However, the couple selling the item of clothing - which dates back to the 1800s - were subjected to abuse.

Auctioneers Burstow and Hewett also received threats and removed the item from its listings.

The present owners, Steve and Mary Squires, found the kakahu some years ago, when they inherited an entire house and its contents. The cloak was discovered hidden away in an old linen cupboard.

The Mr Squires traced his family tree back to a Thomas Grice, who was recorded as spending time with Chief Rewi in the years after the Maori wars, which were between 1845 and 1872.

The New Zealand online abusers threatened to travel to the UK to get the cloak back for the Maori community.

The abuse began when a New Zealand broadcaster filmed a piece about the cloak in the lead up to the auction.

Burstow and Hewett contacted Sussex Police which said it has given safety advice to those involved.

Auctioneer Mark Ellin said the company had been "bombarded by online abuse".

He said: "It was all unexpectedly upsetting to be on the end of. We felt we did the right thing withdrawing it from sale."

Mr Ellin also said the New Zealand High Commission had been in touch to apologise for the actions of those sending the abuse.

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