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Stolen carvings found - after 34 years

PUBLISHED: 09:23 17 June 2006 | UPDATED: 16:46 25 February 2010

IT would appear that divine intervention has spread to the world wide web.

Parishioners in a Suffolk village have long wondered what happened to two ornate wooden carvings stolen from their church more than 30 years ago.

IT would appear that divine intervention has spread to the world wide web.

Parishioners in a Suffolk village have long wondered what happened to two ornate wooden carvings stolen from their church more than 30 years ago.

But the mystery has now been solved after a casual search on the internet miraculously uncovered the pew end figures on online auction site eBay- just days before they were due to be sold.

Although the carvings are believed to be hundreds of years old, internet bargain hunters were sceptical and bidding reached just £14 before the sale, by an American couple, was halted.

But officials at the Church of St Nicholas, in Denston, near Newmarket, last night said they were just relieved the figures had turned up and now they can't wait to be reunited with the treasures they feared would be lost forever.

Rev Ian Finn said: “In the 1970s, Denston church was in a bad state of repair and there was talk of closing it down.

“During that time, various things were stolen from the church including the pew ends.

“Then last week, a church official saw these items advertised on eBay. It was just lucky these treasures turned up as we never thought we would see them again.

“It is just an extraordinary thing and I think how the pew ends were stolen will always remain a mystery.”

The carvings, of a lion and a lamb, complete a unique set at the church - where every pew end depicts an animal.

Mr Finn explained: “Every pew in the church has carvings of different animals - we believe it is pretty unique to Denston. But there was a space missing where these had been stolen.

“Everyone at the church knew the story and we had even talked about making new ones. It is absolutely marvellous news and we now can't wait to have them back in Denston.”

Paul Eash, an eBay broker who had been selling the carvings on behalf of an Ohio couple, shut down the auction after he was contacted by the church.

Mr Eash confirmed he would be returning the items to Denston after Suffolk police and the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich convinced him that the claim was legitimate.

He said a couple had bought the items in 1972 - the year they were stolen - at an antique shop in Ipswich.

Mr Finn hopes to have the carvings back in Suffolk next week.

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