Burglars deny war hero his ‘fervent’ burial wish

90-year-old Gwen Hillman with a photograph of her husband Peter taken in the 1960s when he was in the RAF.
90-year-old Gwen Hillman with a photograph of her husband Peter taken in the 1960s when he was in the RAF.
Have your say

A FRAIL 90-year-old has spoken of her heartbreak after the medals her war hero husband wished to be buried with were stolen.

Gwen Hillman says callous thieves who ransacked her Holbeach home have denied her 89-year-old husband Peter his “fervent” wish to be buried with the Burma Star and other medals he earned during the Second World War, as well as his RAF officer’s cap.

Mr Hillman’s treasured possessions were taken, along with a priceless autograph book containing signatures of some of the most influential figures of the 20th century.

The autographs, including those of Edward VIII, George Bernard Shaw, Douglas Bader and Lady Nancy Astor, had been collected by Gwen when she was a child.

The burglars also took Royal Worcester china, silver cutlery, jewellery, television sets, watches and even a set of rosary beads.

Gwen, a former nurse, said: “We had a lot of things that had a lot of sentimental value but these two men just came in and took what they wanted.

“I’m glad they have been sent to prison for what they have done.

“It’s awful to think they went into my home and went through our things. The medals and RAF cap meant an awful lot to Peter, he was very upset by the burglary.”

And Gwen thinks the two burglars, Nigel Duncan and Wayne Dunne, may have been watching her home and seen her driven away in an ambulance after breaking her hip in a fall.

She said: “I think they broke in either that same night or the next day.”

She had intended to return home after her hospital stay, but she was so upset by what had happened she was only able to enter the kitchen and has never been back since.

She has now moved into Nutten Stoven nursing home in Holbeach, where Peter had lived for a while.

Last week career burglar Duncan (50), of Albert Street, Holbeach, and Dunne (38) of Queen’s Road, Spalding, each admitted the burglary between August 19 and 22 last year when they appeared before Lincoln Crown Court.

Duncan was jailed for seven years.

Dunne, who also admitted possession of cocaine with intent to supply, was jailed for five years and two months.

Judge Sean Morris told them: “Mr Hillman wanted to be carried to his last resting place with his medals and his officer’s cap on his coffin but you stole them and they have never been recovered.

“It was shameless, heartless and callous. Your victims have been devastated.

“Elderly people, especially those who fought on our behalf in the war, are entitled to see out their lives in dignity and respect. You ripped that away from them.”

Duncan was arrested after his DNA was found on a balclava left behind in the couple’s garage. Dunne’s shoeprint was also found at the scene.

Neil Sands, defending Duncan, said he apologised for the offence and expressed his “utmost regret” to the Hillamans.

Tim Brown, for Dunne said his client had become involved in drugs and needed cash to repay a debt.