British tourist accused but X-ray fails to find stolen pink diamond

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Australian police searching for a stolen £108,000 rare pink diamond have X-rayed a British tourist suspected to have swallowed it.

The diamond was snatched from a jewellery store in the northern Australia city of Cairns last weekend by a man who escaped on a bicycle.

Police were able to identify the suspect from closed-circuit TV and finger prints. Police say they arrested a 29-year-old Briton as he attempted to board a flight to New Zealand from an airport in the southern city of Melbourne.

Senior Sergeant Greg Giles told Australian Broadcasting Corporation yesterday that police have yet to recover the cut diamond, and suspected the tourist swallowed it. But X-rays were inconclusive.

The man is to appear in a Cairns court on theft charges. He was identified by court records as Matthew Mark Luke Osborne, and was to be extradited from Melbourne in Victoria state and appear in a Cairns court today, police said.

The diamond’s owner, Keith Bird, said police told him that the man had admitted stealing the diamond, and claimed to have swallowed it as he prepared to board the flight from Melbourne.

He said Western Australia state police had the suspect’s fingerprints recorded for a traffic offence.

But Mr Bird, owner of the Diamond Gallery in Cairns, doubts the diamond is inside him.

“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,” Mr Bird said.

“If he’s not going to confess where the stone is, he’s going to do some serious time,” he added.

Despite the hefty price tag, the diamond is only 0.31 carat with a diameter of 4.3 millimeters (11/64 of an inch). The value of pink diamonds from Australia’s Argyle Diamond Mine is based more on colour than size.

Mr Bird said the stolen diamond was insured for 200,000 Australian dollars, but he had been asking for 250,000 Australian dollars (£135,000).

n Soldiers have been sent to northern Burma to protect an enormous jade boulder that could weigh up to 50 tons.

The senior minister in Kachin state, Lajun Ngan Seng, says the raw jade was discovered in the mining region known as Hpakant just over a week ago.

Still half buried, it is difficult to know its exact size but he says authorities believe it may be 18 feet high, weighing up to 50 tons.

Burma is one of the world’s biggest producers of jade, most found in the conflict-torn mountains of Kachin, where ethnic rebels have been fighting the government for more than half a century.