Guardia Civil recovers historic meteorite from removals man

Investigation begins into how the man came into possession of the historic meteorite

More than 70 years ago in the town of Reliegos in Leon, a historic meteorite weighing more than 17 kilos fell to Earth and created a huge hole on Calle Real. The rock was probably around 4,500 million years old and had travelled through the Solar System before landing in the Spanish town. The meteorite has carried on moving around since it landed and part of it recently ended up for sale on for €50,000.

On Wednesday, October 27, The Guardia Civil announced they had recovered this part of the stone and were in the process of handing it back to its rightful owner, the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) in Madrid.

Captain Marcos Santos, from the SEPRONA arm of the Guardia Civil, confirms the man who put the piece up for sale is charged with the alleged crime of misappropriation. The man, identified as Juan Carlos M., is a resident of Hernani. He assures the Guardia that a worker of a moving company found the historic meteorite in the abandoned belongings of the engineer Manuel Laborde Werlinden. Laborde Werlinden was one of the founders of the Aranzadi Society of Sciences and died in 1993. Captain Santos states that this version of events is not confirmed. The meteorite was already for sale a year ago, so “the investigation is still open” he added. 

The director of CSIC is Rafael Zardoya. As the CSIC turned 250 years old in 2021, he said: “It is a good birthday present. We are recovering a meteorite that disappeared in the 60s from our collection”. The Guardia Civil investigation suggests that Laborde Werlinden had the piece in storage for study, but the trail disappeared at some point. It then reappeared with the rock in the hands of this seller in 2015. “Did he lose it? Was it stolen? We are investigating,” says Captain Santos.

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Written by

Claire Gordon