The breastplate that belonged to Jack Kibbeen.
The breastplate that belonged to Jack Kibbeen.

Bonhams won't withdraw breastplate

THE owner of an Aboriginal breastplate which might have been stolen from Lismore more than 50 years ago has refused to withdraw the item from an auction.

Bonhams will auction the Jack Kibbeen breastplate on Sunday.

The Northern Star yesterday reported that elders David Kapeen and Rosslyn Sten had signed affidavits stating they believed the treasured family item was stolen from the Lismore museum (now the Richmond River Historical Society).

They are now hoping the current owner will liaise with them about a sale price.

"I have a lot of empathy for the breastplate owner," Mrs Sten said.

"I have no anger towards him at all - he bought it in good faith not knowing about its history.

"Aboriginal Legal Aid in Lismore is helping us.

"We're going to see if he will negotiate a price for us because we just want this breastplate returned to country."

But in an email to The Northern Star, Bonhams' chief executive James Hendy said he had "written confirmation from the vendor that he does not wish for the item to be removed from sale".

"As we are only the agent we are following our client instructions," he said.

"He (our client) said that if it did not sell at auction he would be interested in talking to (Mrs Sten)."

The crescent-shaped copper breastplate is inscribed "Jack Kibbeen King of Wollongbar" and is also engraved with an Aboriginal warrior and a kangaroo, mounted in a presentation frame.

On its website, Bonhams estimates it could fetch between $3000 and $5000 at auction.

It will be auctioned as part of Bonhams' fine furniture and decorative arts auction on Sunday.

Should the item be removed from auction? Leave a comment below.