A drugs bust turned up a very unusual piece of evidence that had been almost ingeniously disguised in a builder's back garden.
The Supreme Court of Queensland, Australia, heard on Thursday, February 25, that as well as a quantity of methamphetamine, cannabis and drug paraphernalia, police officers raiding Joseph William Gertig’s Cairns home found a stolen meteorite worth $15,000 (just under £8,500).
Gertig told the court that he had kept the five billion-year-old space rock in his garden for five years, but insisted that he hadn’t actually stolen it from the Crystal Caves Science Museum in Atherton, Queensland.
Crown prosecutor Nathan Crane told the court the item, which is thought to have originated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, had sustained a few “bumps and bruises” since it was stolen from the museum but it is now being repaired before being put back on display.
“It's a significant item and you must have realised its intrinsic value,” Mr Crane told the defendant.
Speaking for the defence, barrister Michael Dalton conceded that his client knew the item had been stolen but had nevertheless kept it in his garden “as a bit of a novelty”.
Justice James Henry handed Gertig a 16-month jail sentence for the possession of 6 grams of meth and a quantity of cannabis. He has already served part of his sentence and will be eligible for parole in July.
No one has been charged with the theft of the mini-asteroid, which is roughly the size of a football and weighs around 24lb.
The object was discovered by Stuart Foster at the Wolfe Creek crater in Western Australia in 1973. It took Rene Boissevain, whose daughters now run the Crystal Cave museum, over 40 years to persuade Mr Foster to donate the rock to his museum, but it was stolen in a midnight raid less than a fortnight later.
Two men were seen stealing the meteorite on the museum’s CCTV, but they were never caught and it was lost for five years.
Rene’s daughters Ghislaine Gallo and Cecilia Boissevain appeared at a press conference to announce the return of the meteorite.
Ghislaine told ABC News: “Daddy kept saying, ‘Why do you have this thing in your garage, why don’t you donate it to the museum for the whole world to see?’”
The pair were stunned to get a call telling them that their property had been recovered.
Ghislaine described the moment that a police officer called the museum: “He said,’We’ve got your meteorite’, and I just went,’Yeah, I don’t think so, I find that a little hard to believe’, and he said, ‘Yeah, it’s definitely your meteorite’.”
She says it’ll be locked up securely this time: “I’m certainly not going to put it on a pedestal in the shop. I’m going to put it behind very safe glass in the museum. ”
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