Pompeii thieves claim relics are cursed

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Thieving tourists frequently send back stolen items from Pompeii after being cursed or racked by guilt. Photo: Carlo Herman/AFP
10:38 CEST+02:00
Tourists who have stolen relics from Pompeii often send back their loot, with some claiming the artefacts are cursed, according to the site's archaeological superintendent Massimo Osanna.
In recent years, the site has received around a hundred packages returning stolen relics, which are often accompanied by letters explaining that the items have brought the thieves nothing but bad luck.

“They write that the stolen pieces have brought them nothing but trouble,” Osanna told Corriere Della Sera.
“They say they can trace back all their family troubles to their theft at Pompeii."
But sometimes they just regret the theft and feel guilty, added Osanna, who had a stolen mosaic tile - stolen in the 1970s - sent back to him by an English woman a few days ago.
The white tile was still in excellent condition and had been taken from the site by the woman's parents while they were on holiday.

But after they died, the woman inherited the tile and felt it was time to do the right thing.
“Please don't judge them too harshly,” she wrote in her letter. “They were different times.”
Now, Osanna is thinking about creating an exhibition of the returned artefacts and letters to tell the story behind some of the stolen pieces.

Ironically the letters, not the relics, could be the star of the show.
“It's not that the stolen pieces are highly interesting or valuable – it's more the letters. For this reason I'd like to do an exhibition to show how we were and how we are.”

Osanna's announcement comes after four French tourists were charged with aggravated theft after being caught red-handed trying to make off with pieces of Pompeii's famous frescoes.
The four tourists, three brothers and a sister, were visiting the archaeological site on Monday after their Mediterranean cruise had stopped in the port of Naples, La Repubblica reported.
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American visitors spotted the group inside the Forum baths picking chips of plaster off a fresco and reported them to site security, who called the police.

Beware the curse! A fresco inside the Forum baths at Pompeii. Photo: Steve James/Flickr

Police searched their rucksacks and found pieces of fragments from frescoes.
The group was charged with aggravated theft and now staff at the site are working to establish which of the painstakingly restored and expertly curated 2,000-year-old frescoes the pieces belong to, so they can be put back in their rightful place. 

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