Joy as plaque stolen from Norwich’s Mousehold Heath is returned

A plaque that was stolen from a famous memorial that was vandalised on Mousehold Heath has been returned after it was found at a scrapyard in Norwich.

The RH Mottram memorial, which is at the crest of St James' Hill and marks one of the best-loved views in Norwich, was badly damaged in May when the plaque was stolen from the site.

The plaque was later recovered from a scrap metal merchants in Norwich after bosses as the site reported they had received the unusual item.

The plaque has now been returned and city watchdogs the Norwich Society together with the Mousehold Conservators, the group that oversees the management of the Heath, are deciding what to do with it.

Vicky Manthorpe, administrator of the Norwich Society, said: 'We're absolutely delighted. It's not in a state that can be reinstated at the moment, as it's a bit bent, but it's great to have it back.'

Discussions are now taking place about the next step in terms of getting the plaque reinstated.

Officers investigating the theft identified Christopher O'Neill as the culprit after studying CCTV footage at the site.

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O'Neill, 22, of Pippen Green, Norwich, appeared at Norwich Crown Court to be sentenced last month after pleading guilty to handling stolen goods at an earlier hearing. He was ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.

PC James Boakes of the Thorpe Hamlet Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) said the return of the plaque highlighted the good relationship police had with scrap metal merchants through its successful Operation Radar initiative.

The memorial is to Ralph Hale Mottram, who lived from 1883-1971 and was a former Lord Mayor of Norwich. He is best remembered for his Spanish Farm Trilogy books, published in 1927 and based on his First World War experiences in France and Flanders.

Have you got a crime story? Call Peter Walsh on 01603 772436.