Facebook helps police catch shipwreck thief
A diver has been fined £1,400 after pleading guilty to stealing two relics from an official war grave.
Duncan Keates took an ornate porthole and an oval-shaped metal plate from the wreck of HMS Duke of Albany when he was diving last summer. His fellow divers, who saw him steal from the protected site, reported the theft.
MOD Police detectives used Facebook to track down Mr Keates and recovered both items from a house in Leicestershire.
“Although we had possession of the items believed to have been removed from the wreck, we still had to conclusively tie them to HMS Duke of Albany,” explained Det Sgt Peter Cassidy who led the investigation.
With the help of maritime and naval experts, as well as divers who testified that they had visited the wreck and seen the items, enough evidence was gathered against Mr Keates and he pleaded guilty in court.
He was fined £1,400 for taking the items from the protected site, which are now in possession of the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.
The Duke of Albany was used as a ferry before World War I, sailing between Fleetwood and Belfast. In 1914 she was taken over by the Royal Navy and used as an ‘armed boarding vessel’ around the Orkneys.
A German submarine torpedoed HMS Duke of Albany two years later, killing over 20 men and sinking the former ferry some 30 miles northeast of Wick in Scotland.
The wreck was discovered just four years ago by divers who spent years researching her fate. The site became an official war grave and is now one of 67 protected sites in the waters around the UK.
It is illegal to tamper with the wreck or remove anything from it without a government license.