AMID a rampage of vandalism, security guards at Pompeii heaved a sigh of relief when they managed to catch one tourist in the act of chiseling a wall mosaic apart ... from a newly reopened villa.
Following a chase on foot through the ruins, police arrested a tourist from the former Soviet republic of Georgia and retrieved a bit of the ruined mosaic.
Identified as Manuchar Cublashvili, 34, the man was spotted by a guard while stealing three small pieces (3cm x 1 cm) of a mosaic of a wall.
Ironically, the mosaic was in the newly restored villa called the "Domus di Trittolemo" (Regio VII VII insula number 5), just re-opened to the public on 17 April after years of restoration work.
At the sight of the police the man tried to escape, crumbling two of the three bits of mosaic and making a dash for the exit.
But the police captured him after a short chase. A body search revealed the third chunk of mosaic hidden in his trousers pocket.
The stolen property was handed over to the director of the archaeological site, while the man was hauled off to jail.
Police quoted him as simply saying that he "wanted to take home a souvenir of Pompeii."
Pompeii has made headlines in recent months for lack of maintenance and security which has seen rains destroy walls and vandals walk off with large pieces of masonry and frescos.