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Cap badges stolen from SAS hero of Iranian Embassy siege returned to family

Published 10/04/2016

Members of the SAS enter the Iranian Embassy in London on May 5, 1980, to end a six-day siege
Members of the SAS enter the Iranian Embassy in London on May 5, 1980, to end a six-day siege

Army badges stolen from an SAS hero hailed for his role in ending the Iranian Embassy siege have been returned to his family.

The SAS and Parachute Regiment cap badges belonged to John McAleese and were stolen during a burglary at his home.

Mr McAleese was part of the team which helped end the six-day siege after a group of six armed men stormed the embassy in London in 1980 and took 26 people hostage.

Millions of people watched the dramatic conclusion of the siege on television when SAS soldiers entered the South Kensington building in a raid known as Operation Nimrod.

The SAS badges were taken from the family home in Hereford and later recovered in the boot of a drug dealer's car in 2010.

Mr McAleese died in 2011 aged 62, before police could return the badges to their rightful owner.

West Midlands Police have now reunited the badges with the family after a former Army colleague responded to a Facebook message from an officer and put him in touch with one of Mr McAleese's daughters.

Pc Alan Reeves handed the badges to Mr McAleese's 19-year-old son Kieran and widow Joanna at Sutton Coldfield police station on Friday.

She said: "We're delighted to finally have the badges back.

"It's personal, sentimental items like these that people miss the most after a burglary.

"The badges were very dear to John's heart and he was gutted to find they'd been taken.

"They will be returned to pride of place in a glass display cabinet alongside other memorabilia from John's time in the SAS."

The cap badges were recovered in May 2010 following the arrest of a drug dealer in Erdington, Birmingham.

The man, who was found with wraps of heroin and crack cocaine, was jailed for four years, West Midlands Police said.

Pc Reeves said he was "delighted" to be able to return the badges to the family.

He said: "John was a colourful, larger than life character and these cap badges for the two regiments he served represent a significant part of our country's history, let alone being of sentimental value to the family.

"The drug dealer we arrested denied all knowledge of the burglary when we found them in his car so they were booked into a police property store - and when Mr McAleese died that's where they stayed despite my best efforts to find a next of kin.

"Thankfully one of my messages reached an old Army colleague of Mr McAleese's and he gave me the family's contact details down in south Wales."

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