Voice 1: The story we've got to end our programme this morning starts in Hamilton in New Zealand seventeen years ago. Local couple Jenny Westgate and Pete North had decided to get engaged, and Pete wanted to give Jenny a special ring, not something bought in a chain-store jewellers.
Voice 2: The couple put a lot of thought into the design for Jenny’s diamond and ruby engagement ring, and then went to a specialist jeweller to get it made. Two years later, they got married.
Voice 1: Our story now jumps forward to January, 2008. Pete, Jenny and their two children are on holiday at the seaside resort of White Beach. Pete parked the car, and the four of them ran down to the sea for a swim. In the excitement of the moment, Jenny plunged into the water without taking off her rings.
Voice 2: The family splashed around for a while and then returned to Pete's parents house where they were staying. Jenny didn't even realise she had lost both her rings until they got back to the house. The family plus Pete's mum and dad and brother went straight back to the beach to look for the rings. They found nothing.
Voice 1: The Norths put in an insurance claim and had replica rings made. But even with the replacements on her finger, it took Jenny a long time to get over how silly she’d been.
Voice 2: The Norths never expected to see the rings again. Luckily for them, a retired teacher Bill Mitchell exists.
Voice 1: Since retiring four years ago, Bill has taken up beach combing as a hobby. His garage is crammed full of driftwood, coins and bits of metal. Of course, Bill plays by the rules. If he finds anything he thinks is of value, he always takes it to the local police station.
Voice 2: It was during a trip to White Beach that Bill turned up one of his most interesting finds. Bill’s metal detector began beeping and Bill started digging with his trowel. About half a metre down in the sand Bill found a beautiful ring.
Voice 1: Bill took the ring to a jeweller friend who valued it at thousands of dollars. The jeweller also noticed a tree-shaped stamp on the inside of the ring. After a lot of research, Bill and his friend traced the stamp to a jewellery designer in Hamilton who still had details of the original owners on file.
Voice 2: Jenny and Pete could not believe it when the police contacted them to say that Jenny's engagement ring had been found. But unfortunately, the story does not have a happy ending.
Voice 1: Jenny's ring is now legally the property of the insurance company that settled the Norths’ claim six years ago. A spokesman for the company has stated that it is general policy for insurance companies to auction off recovered items to the highest bidder.
Voice 2: Jenny's ring would now make much more money at auction than it was originally worth, or than the amount the insurance company paid to the couple. At the moment, it looks as if Pete and Jenny will have to fork out a lot of money if they want the original back. It all seems a bit unfair, but that is the way insurance companies work.