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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Australian police searching for diamond X-ray British tourist accused of theft

CANBERRA, Australia - Australian police searching for a stolen 200,000 Australian dollar ($200,000 Cdn) rare pink diamond have X-rayed a British tourist suspected to have swallowed it.

The diamond was snatched from a jewelry store in the northern Australian city of Cairns last weekend by a man who escaped on a bicycle. Police were able to identify the suspect from closed-circuit TV and fingerprints left near the crime scene, and arrested a 29-year-old Briton on Thursday as he attempted to board a flight to New Zealand from an airport in the southern city of Melbourne, Queensland state police said in a statement Friday.

Senior Sergeant Greg Giles told Australian Broadcasting Corp. that police had yet to recover the cut diamond, and suspected the tourist had swallowed it.

"The X-rays are inconclusive at this time," Giles told ABC.

The man, identified by court records as Matthew Osborne, was to be extradited from Melbourne in Victoria state and appear in a Cairns court on Saturday charged with theft, police said.

The diamond's owner, Keith Bird, said police told him that the man had admitted stealing the diamond, and claimed to have swallowed it as he prepared to board the flight from Melbourne.

He said Western Australia state police had the suspect's fingerprints recorded for a traffic offence.

But Bird, owner of the Diamond Gallery in Cairns, doubts the diamond is inside him.

"If he thought he'd got away with it, why would you sit at the Melbourne airport and swallow it, and if you have to go to the loo on a flight to New Zealand? That would be a bit dangerous," Bird said.

"If he's not going to confess where the stone is, he's going to do some serious time," Bird added.

Despite the hefty price tag, the diamond is only 0.31 carat with a diameter of 4.3 millimetres. The value of pink diamonds from Australia's Argyle Diamond Mine is based more on colour than size.

Bird said the stolen diamond was insured for AU$200,000, but he had been asking for AU$250,000 ($250,000 Cdn).

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