People, Travel

Tourist Returns Artifact, Half a Century After She Stole It

Tourist Returns Artifact, Half a Century After She Stole ItTourist Returns Artifact, Half a Century After She Stole It

A Canadian woman has given back a Pompeii relic she stole 50 years ago.

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 had stolen a piece of the Roman city ruins during her honeymoon in the Italian region of Campania, in 1964.

According to Italian newspaper Il Mattino, the Italian-American woman, who has not been named, put the artifact in her bag and took it back with her to Canada and also to Beijing, where she moved a few years later.

The woman said she has always felt guilty about the “souvenir” she had taken and therefore she decided to fly to Italy to give back the relic, part of an ancient theatre construction.

“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 apologized 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.

Police, led by Captain Carmine Elefante, took the relic and gave it to local authorities, who will place it where it originally was.

The artifact is in good condition, authorities said.

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, two American tourists were caught with a 30kg artifact from Pompeii ruins in one of their suitcases. They were stopped at the Fiumicino airport, Rome, and charged with appropriation of state heritage. The incident occurred shortly after a Canadian tourist tried to rob a piece of Rome’s Colosseum.

Also 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.