Cypriot police recover 42 stolen icons

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POLICE found a total of 42 icons in the village of Letymbou yesterday, including one of historic and archaeological value, which appear to be the result of recent church thefts in the Paphos area as well as in other areas, according to police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos. 

“The evidence [icons] was completely hidden in shrubbery that was two metres high, and for police to access the scene a tractor had to be used to create an access point,” said Katsounotos. 

According to Katsounotos, from the evaluation of the evidence available to them on such cases and information that had reached the ears of the Paphos police, they managed to locate the icons. However he could not say how the icons ended up there, only that the thieves were determined to hide them so that they could not be seen by anyone. 

One of the icons, which is of historic and archaeological value and depicts the Virgin Fotolambousa, has already been identified by the church’s priest. Ayia Fotolambousa church was robbed of five icons in March. 

Katsounotos said that the evidence has been confiscated for testing in order to collect additional information that will aid in the investigation, and hopefully lead to the identity of the thieves who have been pillaging churches for some time now, “stealing sacred vessels and icons.” 

He also referred to a meeting that took place on Thursday under the auspices of assistant chief of operations Andreas Iatropoulos concerning the issue of church thefts all over Cyprus, in which additional measures were decided on but for he would not specify what those were “ for obvious reasons”, he said. However, he gave assurances that the measures tackle three areas: prevention of further break-ins and robberies, the tracking down of stolen items and the arrest of the perpetrators. 

The phenomenon of church theft has been an ongoing issue island wide and has been on the rise for the last two years, with some churches turning to security systems and CCTV cameras to protect their valuables. 

Author: Natalie Hami | Source: Cyprus Mail [August 06, 2011]

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