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Minister's wife turns detective

The wife of the Armed Forces Minister, Nicholas Soames, turned detective to track down antique heirlooms stolen from her family home.

Serena Soames, 36, roamed the streets of Brighton for three days after pounds 10,000 of antiques and paintings were stolen.

She finally tracked all the stolen items to three shops in the town's North Laines antiques area. One of the shops was in the same street where police last week discovered royal antiques stolen from the Duke and Duchess of Kent's Oxfordshire home.

Mrs Soames said she was extremely upset at the loss of heirlooms from her family's East Sussex home and asked the police if there was anything she could do to help their investigation. An officer advised her to look around Brighton, which has the biggest antiques trade outside London.

Mrs Soames travelled to Brighton and spent hours trudging around antiques shops before spotting an oak boot jack that had been taken from her home. The following day she returned and found paintings up for sale in another antique shop. Spurred on by her success, Mrs Soames returned for a third time and found a small oak bureau which had been taken by the thieves.

Mrs Soames said: "I never expected to find anything so it just shows you must persevere. My husband said he was very, very proud of me. I have just missed his birthday so I will buy him a Valentine present.''