Callous thieves steal Great War diary

WAR DIARY: A diary written from the Great War trenches was among the items stolen.
WAR DIARY: A diary written from the Great War trenches was among the items stolen.
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A PRECIOUS diary from the Great War trenches has been stolen in a callous raid on a Spen home.

Cruel thieves also took jewellery which been handed down through families when they ‘cleaned out’ the property in Whitehall Road.

And a strongbox containing 500 collectable coins - including a gold Krugerrand - was also taken when the burglars struck.

The house was empty as the owners had gone to stay with friends while work on an extension got under way. A boiler waiting to be installed in the extension was stolen.

Police put the value of the haul at around £3,500 – not including the coins.

It is thought many stolen items were still in boxes, having been bequeathed to the family.

Insp Tim Holland of Cleckheaton police said the break-in spotlighted the need for householders to be extra vigilant about security – even though tough police action has stemmed a recent spate of burglaries in Cleckheaton.

Thieves forced a door to get into to the property between September 26 and 27.

Other items taken included 30metres of copper piping, laptop, Euros and a flat screen TV.

“They cleaned them out, even taking gloves, jackets and other clothes,” said Insp Holland. The clothes were mainly walking gear kept in a rucksack and including waterproofs, walking socks and hat.

The sickened owner of the property, who did not want to be named, said the First World War diary had belonged to his grandfather, a colonel who endured the horrors of the trenches.

“He had kept a daily diary of the war,” said the owner. “I have all his stuff but I put the diary to one side to start reading it.”

That, and the jewellery, had been of great sentimental value. The raiders also took birthday gifts the owner had received as a boy.

The coins were also inherited, having been handed down through the family.

“I don’t think this was a casual break-in,” said the owner. “I think they had cased the area. They went through the lot, they must have been very cool characters who knew just what they were doing.

“I am very upset but keen to move on now. The diary in particular is of no use to them at all, but I doubt they will return it.”

A large white van was seen in the area a few days before the raid, with neighbours reporting having seen ‘someone suspicious’ a day or two earlier.

Two white men were seen in the van. Both are in their late teens. One was slim and the other shorter, more chunky and with ginger hair.

Insp Holland said: “If anyone is offered any of these unusual items, such as the diary, contact us immediately. Or anyone selling second-hand clothes. This was a big haul and it could take the thieves a while to dispose of it.”

Witnesses or anyone with information should contact PC Adam Johnson at Dewsbury CID on 01924 431095.