2 Slovaks jailed for stealing teddy bears left for Diana
Their government apologizes for 'deplorable' behavior
September 11, 1997
Web posted at: 6:48 p.m. EDT (2248 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- Two Slovakian tourists who admitted stealing teddy bears and flowers left outside Westminster Abbey in honor of the late Princess Diana were sentenced Thursday to 28 days in jail.
The Slovakian government issued a formal apology, calling the actions of its citizens "deplorable."
A London magistrate ordered the stiff sentences for Maria Rigolova, 54, and Agnese Sihelksa, 50, after they pleaded guilty to taking 11 teddy bears, as well as flowers and other items, from the piles left in front of the cathedral by mourners. The two had been on a bus tour when the thefts occurred.
The prosecutor in the case, Nazir Afzal, said the women's actions were "not far from the old offense of grave-robbing."
In a statement from the Slovakian embassy, press attaché Viera Viskupova expressed her country's regrets and called the women's behavior "despicable and unforgivable."
"We believe the verdict of the court and the sentence that ensued from it were entirely commensurate with the nature of this most deplorable crime," Viskupova said.
The sentencing of the Slovaks came a day after a Sardinian tourist, Fabio Piras, 20, was fined 100 pounds ($160) for taking a teddy bear from outside St. James's Palace.
In a demonstration of the country's mood, Piras was punched in the face on his way out of the courthouse by a bystander, who called the late princess "queen of everybody's hearts."
Reuters contributed to this report.