A British backpacker has been charged with stealing a rare pink diamond worth more than £100,000 in Australia.
Matthew Osborne appeared before Cairns Magistrates’ Court accused of snatching the Argyle stone from a jewellers last Saturday, the Cairns Post reported.
The 29-year-old was arrested at Melbourne Airport yesterday as he tried to get on a plane to New Zealand.
The Brisbane Times reports that police took action after the stone, which is normally kept in a safe at Cairns jewellery store The Diamond Gallery, was shown to customers at the weekend, before a man stole a container with the diamond inside and made off on a bike.
The diamond, measuring 4.3mm in diameter, is said to be worth $200,000 – around £108,000.
X-rays have failed to show if the suspected thief has swallowed the gem, but police say they are yet to rule out the possibility.
Asked if authorities are keeping a close eye on his movements in the meantime, Detective Acting Inspector Kevin Groan replied: “Most definitely.”
The Australian says he told reporters: “We hope that he’ll be with us for some time.”
“The value of the property is such that it’s going to be an impost to him for the rest of his life if he’s identified as being responsible,” he added.
Keith Bird, owner of The Diamond Gallery, said police told him the man had admitted stealing the gem and swallowed it as he prepared to board the New Zealand-bound flight.
But he doubted the diamond is inside him.
Mr Bird said: “If he thought he’d got away with it, why would you sit at the Melbourne airport and swallow it, and if you have to go to the loo on a flight to New Zealand? That would be a bit dangerous.
“If he’s not going to confess where the stone is, he’s going to do some serious time.”
Police are said to have used DNA evidence and CCTV footage to track down the British backpacker, who had been living in Australia for five years on work visas.
Detectives are also thought to be looking at the possibility that the valuable stone was sent overseas.
In a statement this morning the Queensland force confirmed that the stolen diamond is still outstanding and investigations are continuing.
A spokesman said: “Detectives will escort the man back to Cairns later today.
“He is expected to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court tomorrow charged with entering premises and stealing property of a value greater than 5,000 Australian dollars (£2,699).”
A Foreign Office spokesman added: “We are aware of reports that a British national was arrested at Melbourne airport on Thursday.
“We have been in contact with the local authorities and offered to provide consular assistance.”