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Burglars steal war veteran's medals days before Anzac Day

The family of a World War II veteran are anxious to recover his stolen medals after “despicable” burglars ransacked his widow’s home.

John Carpenter, a former Christchurch Central Memorial RSA president, served in the Pacific with the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

It earned him two 1939-45 Star medals, the Pacific Star and the NZ War Service medal.

He died in 2011.

Earlier this week  burglars broke into the St Martins home of his 93-year-old widow, Lorraine, while she was in hospital with an injured leg.  The thieves stole the four medals, along with Carpenter’s First Canterbury Regiment emblem, and other family heirlooms and jewellery.

She had hoped police might track them down in time for Anzac Day, but still held hope they would turn up.

The red and blue World War II medals were mounted on a bronze bar.

“My son usually wears his father’s medals for Anzac Day,” she said.

“[In] a matter of days and he would have had them; now they’re gone.”

The couple’s daughter, Trish Hollis, discovered the break-in on Tuesday after visiting her mother in hospital.

She was “furious and devastated all at the same time”.

“The medals have been in our family all our life. They come out at Anzac Day.

“Everything was tipped out. Papers were everywhere… it was just a mess. They even took photo frames – just dumped the photos and took the frame,” Hollis said.  “It’s the thought of someone being in there, that’s the worst bit.”

She phoned the police then alerted the RSA.

Christchurch Memorial RSA president Pete Dawson knew Carpenter and called the thieves “despicable”.

“Anybody who would do that, you would have to wonder about their moral upbringing,” he said.

Lorraine has moved to a retirement village rather than return to the house.

Hollis packed her mother’s household belongings in boxes as she tried “to make sense of it”.

She had a smashed window replaced and a locksmith change the locks.

Police fingerprinted the house and advised Hollis to contact pawn shops.

She hoped the burglars might instead have a heart this Anzac weekend and drop the medals at a police station.

“That would be great,” she said.

Police said they were investigating the burglary.

By Kaysha Brownlie for The Press