1. ITV Report

Man from Nailsea hoping to be reunited with his family's stolen war medals after the thief was caught in Romania

Roy still has two of the medals but is hoping the others will soon be returned. Credit: ITV West Country

A man from Nailsea is hoping to be reunited with his family's stolen war medals after the thief was caught in Romania.

The medals and some jewellery were stolen from 86-year-old Roy Bowden during a burglary on Monday 20 January.

Claudiu Popa was stopped by police officers in Romania for a traffic offence on Monday 3 February.

Officers found a haul of stolen goods in the back of his car, including silverware, medals and jewellery.

Claudiu Popa was jailed for three years and 10 months. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Popa was jailed for three years and 10 months at Taunton Crown Court after admitting conspiracy to commit burglaries.

The conspiracy charge related to offences committed in Tickenham, Nailsea, Dyrham, Chilton Polden, Wedmore and Glastonbury.

He fled Romania after being released by police there, but was caught when he returned to Britain.

Popa was one of a professional gang of burglars who carried out a series of offences in our force area. We recovered DNA evidence at some of our burglary scenes and this evidence directly led to the arrest of Claudiu Popa in Scotland, where he was working at a hotel after fleeing Romania.

– PC Mark Pollock, Avon and Somerset Police
Police found a haul of stolen goods in the back of Popa's car. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

Mr Bowden says that of all the items stolen the medals hold particular sentimental value.

The three sets that were stolen amount to over 70 years' service in the Royal Navy. How do you put that into monetary or any other terms? So that was particularly upsetting.

– Roy Bowden

Despite initially being told that there was a low chance of recovering the medals, he received a phone call a fortnight later saying that Romanian police had arrested someone with war medals.

Suddenly there's light and hope that some of it will be there.

– Roy Bowden

Mr Bowden is confident that the medals are those belonging to his family and is hoping to have them back soon.

I'm still waiting for the Romanian police to return it to Avon and Somerset Police and then we shall have to go down and inspect it all to see what is ours and what isn't.

I can identify them by the medal ribbons, by the colours and by the names of course.

I know [the police] have gone that extra bit and they've really pulled out the stops to do it and I'm very grateful to them.

– Roy Bowden
The stolen medals were awarded to members of Mr Bowden's family for service. Credit: ITV West Country

Police say Popa admitted his involvement in multiple burglary offences and that the items found in his car had been stolen from homes within Somerset.

Officers are working with services in Romania to obtain photographs of all the recovered items and reunite them with their rightful owners.

We’d like to thank the National Crime Agency, Interpol, Police Scotland and the Metropolitan Police for their help in this investigation so far. Criminals don’t respect borders and in this case it’s needed a Europe-wide effort to bring this offender to justice.

– PC Mark Pollock, Avon and Somerset Police