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Alan Turing's stolen OBE will be returned to his old school

Wartime codebreaker Alan Turing’s OBE will be returned to his old Dorset school 36 years after a woman stole it claiming to be his daughter before FBI found it in her Colorado home

  • In 2018, American federal authorities recovered memorabilia worth £27,000 that once belonged to British mathematician and WWII codebreaker Alan Turing
  • Stolen items included his Princeton doctoral degree and his Order of the British Empire medal awarded for his code-cracking skills that helped win WWII
  • The items were taken in 1984 from Turing’s boarding school Sherborne School, in Dorset, by a woman named Julia Turing who was claiming to be his daughter 
  • Turing’s family have welcomed the news that the items will now be returned 

Wartime codebreaker Alan Turing’s OBE will be returned to his old school more than 30 years after a woman stole it claiming to be his daughter.

Turing’s family welcomed news that the wartime codebreaker’s OBE will be returned after the FBI traced a number of his belongings to the home of ‘Julia Turing’ in Colorado.

The genius mathematician’s Princeton degree, school reports and letters were also taken by ‘Julia Turing’ from Sherborne School in Dorset in 1984.

Federal authorities have confirmed stolen items belonging to mathematician and WWII codebreaker Alan Turing (pictured) including his Princeton degree, his Order of the British Empire medal, and other memorabilia will be returned to his school in Dorset after 1984 theft

In 1946 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by King George VI for his code-breaking work during WWII that reportedly shortened the war by two years and saved more than 14 million lives. Turing’s Order of the British Empire medal is pictured above

From September 1936 to July 1938 Turing attended Princeton University, studying mathematics. In June 1938 he obtained his PhD from the Department of Mathematics at Princeton. Pictured: His Princeton Graduate School file was one of several stolen items

She left a note saying they would be ‘well taken care of’ before walking out the door with them.

Earlier this year the cache of 17 items was discovered in her home in Denver, Colorado, during an FBI search.

The FBI was alerted to her by the University of Colorado who raised suspicions after she approached them with Turing’s possessions saying she wanted to loan them to the institution.

A US civil court case was launched against her and has now been settled out of court.

It emerged that the woman had changed her name from Julia Schwinghamer to Turing and claimed to be the Enigma codebreaker’s daughter.

Turing’s items, that include a congratulatory letter sent to him by King George VI, are currently in the possession of the US Department of Homeland Security in Denver.

They will be returned to the £36,000-a-year private school where Turing was a pupil between 1926 and 1931, and whose science block was named after him in the 1960s.

Turing’s great niece Rachel Barnes said it was ‘wonderful news’ that his possessions were to be returned.

Speaking on BBC Radio Solent, she said: ‘It is of course absolutely brilliant news to hear they are going to be returned to their rightful place.

‘I can’t wait to see them back in place where they belong at Sherborne School in due course. It is a wonderful, wonderful day.

‘She (Julia Turing) obviously had an enormous fascination with him for some reason and took such important assets such as his OBE and a wonderful letter from George VI.

‘For her to keep them for so long and have no guilt during that period was really awful.

The items were taken by Julia Turing, (pictured with two Turing portraits in 2017). Julia, who falsely claimed to be Turing’s daughter, changed her last name from Schwinghamer in 1988

Julia Turing approached the University of Colorado Boulder in January 2018 saying she wanted to loan Alan Turing’s memorabilia to the library. However, archivists to the library realized the items were stolen from Sherborne back in 1984 and alerted authorities, sparking FBI probe

‘Generations of pupils at Sherborne School have missed out on them but thank goodness very soon they will be returned as they should be treasured so much.’

John Burden, of the Dorset History Centre, said: ‘It is extremely exciting news that these items are coming back to the county.

‘Turing is such a significant figure in all our lives and our history.’

Turing’s mother Ethel had donated the items to Sherborne School in the 1960s.

Sir Dermot Turing, the codebreaker’s nephew, said: ‘Back in the 1960s nobody outside the very rarefied world of computer science and maths had heard of Alan Turing and it was quite remarkable that a school had dedicated their science block to him.

‘So his mother felt there ought to be some sort of tribute in return so gave various sorts of things to the school including his OBE medal and one of his degree certificates.

‘They were just in a box in a biology laboratory in the school in the Alan Turing Building and she (the woman who stole them) asked to go and see these things.

‘There would not have been any security around it where as these days people would approach the situation completely differently.

When speaking with investigators, Julia Turing confessed she visited Sherborne School in Dorset, UK (above) and asked to see his archive, which was stored in a wooden box in a laboratory. School officials said they found a note left underneath the box after the theft that said: ‘Please forgive me for taking these materials into my possession. They will be well taken care of while under the care of my hands and shall one day all be returned to this spot’ 

‘There are not many items of his around, I don’t own any myself, and they are mostly in museums, so the idea that some things that genuinely did belong to him or relate to his life might come back and be available to look at by interested people would be a great thing.’

During the Second World War, Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Bucks, Britain’s code-breaking centre.

He played a pivotal role in cracking the German Enigma code that enabled the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial battles.

It has been estimated that his work shortened the war in Europe by more than two years and saved more than 14 million lives.

In 1952 Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts when ‘gross indecency’ was still criminal in the UK.

He accepted chemical castration treatment as an alternative to prison.

Turing died aged 41 on June 7, 1954 from cyanide poisoning.

In 2009, the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for ‘the appalling way he was treated’.

The Queen granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013.

He was played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film The Imitation Game which was released in 2014.

Who was Alan Turing? Pioneering scientist who helped crack Hitler’s enigma machine only to be convicted for homosexuality after WWII

Alan Turing (pictured) was a British mathematician best known for his work cracking the enigma code during the Second World War

Alan Turing was a British mathematician born on June 23, 1912 In Maida Vale, London, to father Julius, a civil servant, and mother Ethel, the daughter of a railway engineer. 

His talents were recognised early on at school but he struggled with his teachers when he began boarding at Sherborne School aged 13 because he was too fixated on science. 

Turing continued to excel at maths but his time at Sherborne was also rocked by the death of his close friend Christopher Morcom from tuberculosis. Morcom was described as Turing’s ‘first love’ and he remained close with his mother following his death, writing to her on Morcom’s birthday each year. 

He then moved on to Cambridge where he studied at King’s College, graduating with a first class degree in mathematics.  

During the Second World War, Turing was pivotal in cracking the Enigma codes used by the German military to encrypt their messages.

His work gave Allied leaders vital information about the movement and intentions of Hitler’s forces.

Historians credit the work of Turing and his fellow codebreakers at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire with shortening the war by up to two years, saving countless lives, and he was awarded an OBE in 1946 for his services. 

Turing is also widely seen as the father of computer science and artificial intelligence due to his groundbreaking work in mathematics in the 1930s.

He was able to prove a ‘universal computing machine’ would be able to perform equations if they were presented as an algorithm – and had a paper published on the subject in 1936 in the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society Journal when he was aged just 23. 

But he was disgraced in 1952 when he was convicted for homosexual activity, which was illegal at the time and would not be decriminalised until 1967.

To avoid prison, Turing agreed to ‘chemical castration’ – hormonal treatment designed to reduce libido.

As well as physical and emotional damage, his conviction had led to the removal of his security clearance and meant he was no longer able to work for GCHQ, the successor to the Government Code and Cypher School, based at Bletchley Park. 

Turing was awarded an OBE in 1946 for his codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, pictured, which is credited with ending World War II two years early

Then In 1954, aged 41, he died of cyanide poisoning. An inquest recorded a verdict of suicide, although his mother and others maintained that his death was accidental. 

When his body was discovered, an apple laid half-eaten next to his bed. It was never tested for cyanide but it is speculated it was the source of the fatal dose. 

Some more peculiar theories suggest Turing was ‘obsessed’ with fairytale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and his death was inspired by the poisoned apple in the story. 

Following a public outcry over his treatment and conviction, the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a public apology in 2009. 

He then received a posthumous Royal pardon in 2014, only the fourth to be issued since the end of the Second World War.

It was requested by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who described Turing as a national hero who fell foul of the law because of his sexuality.

An e-petition demanding a pardon for Turing had previously received 37,404 signatures. 

A 2017 law, that retroactively pardoned all men cautioned or convicted for homosexual acts under historical legislation, was named in his honour. 

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