Penlee lifeboat tragedy medal 'stolen'
A gold medal posthumously awarded to the coxswain of a lifeboat which lost all eight crewmen in a 1981 rescue is thought to have been stolen.
It was given to William Trevelyan Richards who died when the Solomon Browne went to the aid of the stricken coaster Union Star in December 1981.
A total of 16 people died from the coaster and the Penlee lifeboat.
The gallantry medal, the highest award for bravery, is missing from the RNLI's head office in Poole, Dorset.
The medal was stored with "multiple layers of security", the RNLI said, which is working with police on retrieving the medal.
Dorset Police confirmed it had launched a theft investigation.
The whole crew of the Solomon Browne were awarded gallantry medals by the RNLI in recognition of their "selfless bravery and sacrifice".
George Rawlinson, operations director of the RNLI, said a thorough search of the heritage collection and an internal investigation had been carried out.
He said: "We are devastated by the loss of this important part of our heritage.
"Not only is the medal of historical significance to the RNLI, it also has huge emotional importance, particularly to the families of the crew members who perished and the local community in Newlyn.
"The medal represents the great courage, commitment and ultimate sacrifice made by the Penlee lifeboat crew.
"To us, it is irreplaceable - our primary concern is to secure the return of the medal."