A MAN who has spent months researching the names of soldiers killed in action in the First World War has appealed for the return of a laptop stolen by burglars.

Paul Stephenson has collected the names of 1,500 men from Darlington who died in the Great War, but the laptop where much of the data was stored was among a number of items stolen from his home on New Year’s Eve.

Fortunately, Mr Stephenson had backed up most of his research, but work he completed over the Christmas period has been lost.

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The burglary at Mr Stephenson’s home in Pendleton Road, Darlington, happened at about 5.25pm on December 31 while he and his wife were out on a short walk with the dog.

The rear patio doors were smashed open and the burglars went through the house, taking money from Mrs Stephenson’s purse, DVDs and the black Lenovo laptop.

Mr Stephenson said the loss of the laptop is frustrating and, although he has a copy of most of his work, he had not backed up for several days before the computer was stolen.

He is using a borrowed laptop to continue his work.

He said: “I’d put a lot of work into the research over Christmas and will have to go back and do that all again. It can be caught back up on but it is frustrating.

“I believe this research will be very important and useful over the next few years during the centenary of the First World War.”

Mr Stephenson was inspired to research the number of Darlington’s war dead after a conversation with friends where he learned they both had relatives who died during the war, but were not commemorated on the town’s war memorial.

The memorial, near Darlington Memorial Hospital, has 750 names recorded on it, but Mr Stephenson said he has found hundreds of men and boys who are not publicly recognised.

Through his research Mr Stephenson would like to see the Cenotaph moved to a more prominent position in the town, with the full list of names, as part of the centenary commemorations.

Anyone with information about the burglary or the whereabouts of Mr Stephenson’s laptop can contact Darlington Police on the non-emergency 101 number.