News ‘No mean feat’: War medals stolen in Sydney in 1982 returned to thankful family

‘No mean feat’: War medals stolen in Sydney in 1982 returned to thankful family

War medals stolen 39 years ago in Sydney have been returned to the recipient's descendants. Photo: AAP
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Nearly 40 years ago, the military medals that gave Lawrence Cutts such pride when he marched on Anzac Day were stolen from his Sydney home in a break-in.

Now, thanks to some unexpected twists and turns, they have been returned to the naval officer’s descendants.

Kristen Russell, the granddaughter of Chief Petty Officer Cutts, on Thursday told reporters that it all began when her aunt got a phone call from a heritage worker.

“(They) said, ‘There’s someone in here looking up your father’s war history,” Ms Russell said.

It turned out someone was looking up the provenance of the medals that had been pinched from the family’s Willoughby home in 1982.

The family contacted the person who had been looking up Ms Russell’s grandfather’s military service, who said they were researching the medals for a friend.

That friend, located in Western Australia, told Ms Russell’s aunt that he had bought the medals from a dealer and would sell them to her.

The family was not prepared to give money to someone that they didn’t know, however.

Meanwhile, in August Ms Russell’s daughter attended the local police station in Tamworth, where the family now lives, to get a document signed.

She happened to mention the long-lost medals and the recent events.

A helpful young police officer then found the historic police report recording the theft.

The next month the Western Australian Police Force searched a home in Perth and seized the medals.

Rather than chance a judge’s ruling, the family negotiated with the person who had bought them to buy them back.

CPO Cutts died before he was able to see his medals returned to him, but Ms Russell said it’s a relief to be able to return them to her 84-year-old father, CPO Cutts’ eldest son.

“My grandfather spent very little time with my father and aunt when they were growing up because he was in the navy for 22 years,” she said.

“When he came home, he was given his medals that to him didn’t explain exactly everything that he had done but when he marched on Anzac Day he was very proud that he had those medals.”

When the medals were stolen, Ms Cutts’ grandmother was distraught and organised replacement medals – with a little ‘R’ on the back of them – so he could have something to march with on Anzac Day.

“He was very lucky to get those, but getting the real ones back means a lot to my father and to his sister,” Ms Russell said.

Superintendent Kylie Endemi said it could have been quite easy for the Tamworth police officer to dismiss the conversation with CPO Cutts’ great-granddaughter.

But instead the conversation “kicked off this young officer’s tenacity and passion to do whatever she could to make this right,” she said.

Tracking down the original break-and-enter report was “no mean feat” considering the passage of time.

“But the fact that these medals can now be returned to his son and see the relief in his family’s eyes makes it all worthwhile,” she said.