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Once again, members of the public take moral lead in restitution

A Canadian tourist has returned fragments they removed from the ancient city of Pompeii. This restitution took place fifty years after the fragment was originally removed. The return was not the result of a demand by the Italian government, or any form of legal action – but happened merely because the person who took it realised that returning it was the right thing to do.

This is not the first time something like this has happened – a fragment of the Colosseum was returned in similar circumstances [1] in 2009. If only some museums could take similar decisions, realising that they need to put right things that they did wrongly in the past.

Policing vast sites like Pompeii is not easy [2]

Policing vast sites like Pompeii is not easy

Daily Telegraph [3]

By Nick Squires, Rome
1:50PM GMT 31 Oct 2014
Pompeii artefact returned fifty years after it went missing by the honeymooning woman who stole it

A Canadian tourist has returned a 2,000-year-old terracotta artefact to Pompeii – half a century after she stole it on a trip to the archaeological site on her honeymoon.

The woman from Montreal, who is in her seventies, said the theft of the first century AD terracotta roof decoration had weighed on her conscience for decades.

She made a special trip to Italy this week to give it back to the custodians of Pompeii, handing it to a special cultural heritage unit of the Carabinieri police.

A police officer, Capt Carmine Elefante, said the artefact, which depicts a human face, would be returned to its rightful place.

“Finally, I can sleep in peace. I’ve freed myself from a weight that as I got older became harder and harder for my conscience to bear,” the woman, identified only as Lisa, was reported as saying by Italian media.

She apologised for the theft, ascribing it to the impetuosity of youth. A few weeks ago she had sent an email to cultural heritage officials in Naples, confessing to the theft and offering to return the item.

She had filched the piece of terracotta, which would have covered the roof of a Roman theatre, on her honeymoon in June 1964.

Theft is a problem at ancient sites like Pompeii and the Colosseum in Rome, with tourists regularly trying to take “souvenirs” of their visits.

Last September a pair of American tourists were caught at Fiumicino airport in Rome with a piece of stone that they had taken from Pompeii.

They were charged with the theft of state heritage.

In March this year tourists stole a piece of fresco depicting the goddess Artemis from one of Pompeii’s villas.

During the summer, the Carabinieri cultural heritage unit received a package containing a fragment of ancient fresco.

It was sent anonymously by a tourist who had stolen it some years ago, said Capt Elefante.