A large and valuable meteorite has been missing from a Queensland museum for over a week now, after it was stolen last Monday morning.
In the early hours of June 8, two men broke into The Crystal Caves museum in Atherton, QLD, and stole a rare 11-kilogram meteorite. CCTV footage released last week showed the men smashing a glass door, with one man entering the store for just seconds before they both fled.
In the week since, nobody has come forward with any information while the police investigation has also failed to provide leads. Museum manager Ghislaine Gallo expected the meteorite to be returned by now. "I thought if it was going to come back, it was going to come back straight away. I don't know why, I guess it's just a hunch," Ghislaine said.
Ghislaine said she is still confident in the police investigation. So far, this has included checking out local bars to see if stories are circulating. "They've spoken to some transient people in the area, backpackers, and that sort of thing to see if they've seen or heard anything. They frequent the pubs on a Sunday night as well," Ghislaine said.
After seeing footage of the incident, Ghislaine said she has no doubt that the meteorite was the subject of a targeted theft. "They were definitely coming for it," she commented, noting the thieves ignored gold nuggets in the next cabinet.
Because of its nondescript appearance—it's roughly the size and shape of a football—Ghislaine is sure the thieves would have to be familiar with their target. To the untrained eye the object "is craggy and a brown, rusty color. So a bit like a lump of mud."
Despite underwhelming appearances, the meteorite does hold a considerable value. Reports have priced it at more than $16,000. But there is speculation that it could be worth as much as $50,000 if broken up and sold in a black market situation.
But Ghislaine is appalled at the idea of it being broken up: "Anybody who has any respect for mineral specimens would never break up an entire specimen. To me that's like taking the Mona Lisa and cutting it up into pieces to sell."
She feels the thieves were employed by a private collector. "I think they were either paid by somebody else to go and steal it, or they stole it already having a buyer for it," she said. "There are fanatics out there who are just obsessed with stuff from outer space, you know, 'It's extraterrestrial, I need to have it.'"
Ghislaine's own father—René Boissevain, a mineral enthusiast and founder of The Crystal Caves—pined after the meteorite for decades. Originally discovered by prospector Stuart Foster in 1973 while searching Western Australia's Wolfe Creek meteorite crater, it was finally donated to the museum two weeks ago.
Understandably disappointed over losing the meteorite so soon, Ghislaine continues: "I felt sick with the thought of telling Stuart who had finally entrusted us with this and now we get it flogged from our shop within a couple of weeks." Noting the irony that no one paid the meteorite much attention over the past 40 years, until the museum started promoting its existence.Related: Interested in crime? Then watch this documentary about European jewel thieves beneath.
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She acknowledges the interest the meteorite drew on display was unfortunately what also drew the thieves. "I've attracted attention to this thing because I wanted people to come and see it, and I've obviously attracted the wrong kind of attention. But you want to share stuff, don't you," she adds. "When you get something new, you want to tell everyone about it. That's why you have a museum."
In the week since the theft, the CCTV footage has been shared extensively, and there is still some, albeit small, hope that the men will be recognized or that people with information will come forward and the meteorite will be returned.
"At the end of the day, that's what I want—I want it back. There's no point putting in an insurance claim because I can't buy a new one—I want that one back," Ghislaine said.
"And if we get it back, I've promised Stuart I'll look after it."
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