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Mystery thief hands in football flag to daily office after half a century

A thief has handed in a Soviet Union flag to a regional daily’s office – more than half a century after the newspaper reported it stolen.

The anonymous man gave over the flag, which he claims to have taken during the 1966 football World Cup, to Northern Echo journalists at its Priestgate home, in Darlington, on Monday.

Durham Police launched an investigation after the flag was reported missing from Durham University’s sports centre, where the Soviet Union team were training for the tournament.

The man told Echo reporter Nick Gullon the memento had been stored in his home for the last 50 years, but decided now was the right time to return the flag because he had no one to pass it onto.

Northern Soviet

Nick told HTFP he was unsure what the newspaper would do with the recovered item.

He said: “An elderly man came to the Northern Echo’s Darlington office on Monday and recalled one of our back pages from July 1966 about a Soviet Union flag that was stolen from the team’s training base in Durham for the 1966 World Cup.

“He then proceeded to hand over a carrier bag containing the flag, and said he was the man that stole it 51 years ago. He claimed it was a spur of a moment thing and because he had no family or anyone to pass it onto, he felt now was the time to pass it back to its original owners.

“We found the original story from our archives and realised this was indeed the flag that was stolen all those years ago. The flag is currently in a supermarket carrier bag on my desk – we’re not sure what we are going to do with it yet.”

The story featured on the Echo’s front page yesterday.

The man told Nick: “It was a Friday night and the Russians had been playing at Middlesbrough. I was on my way home and I saw the flag flying on the pole, and it was just a spur of the moment thing.

“I have never done anything with it, so I decided to hand it back and hopefully it can go back to the original owners.”

Durham Police said they were “pleased” the flag had been returned, and they were no longer carrying out an investigation into its whereabouts.