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Tourist fined, punched for stealing teddy bear tribute to Diana

September 10, 1997 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ A judge fined a 20-year-old Sardinian tourist $160 today for stealing a white teddy bear left as a tribute to Princess Diana.

On his way out of the courthouse, Londoner Gerard Moorhouse stiffened the sentence, punching Fabio Piras in the face. ``My Diana! She was the queen of everybody’s hearts,″ Moorhouse said.

Piras pleaded guilty to stealing the teddy bear and told Bow Street Magistrates Court in London that he took it from St. James’s Palace on Tuesday.

Piras said he wanted to give the bear and an attached condolence card from a child to his girlfriend. ``I am so sorry. I feel ashamed,″ he said after the hearing.

The toy was one of hundreds of thousands of tributes left for the princess, who died Aug. 31 in a car crash in Paris. The condolence card said: ``Diana, we love you.″

``The court takes a serious view of this matter,″ Magistrate Lorraine Morgan told Piras. ``It was a particularly mean and unpleasant theft which you perpetrated.″

She initially sentenced him to seven days in a young offenders institution, but after consideration said he would have to pay a $160 fine or spend seven days in jail.

Aldo Amati, a spokesman for the Italian Embassy, called the fine a ``reasonable″ sentence, ``but the fact that he was punched is despicable even though I fully understand the depth of public feeling over the death of the Princess of Wales.″