Workers at the Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa are trying to piece together the mystery of how a small bronze statue of 18th century British general James Wolfe ended up at the hotel over the weekend, some 50 years after it was allegedly stolen from the national archives.

A man approached security at the hotel on Saturday with a grocery bag containing the statuette, which is about 25 centimetres high, and a note.

He said he found the bag in a men's bathroom at the hotel and brought it to the Lord Elgin staff, said Ann Meelker, the director of sales and marketing at the historic hotel.

The statuette carried the signature of British sculptor Vernon March, who designed the National War Memorial in Ottawa as part of an international competition in 1925.


Anne Meelker says the statuette's worth has yet to be determined. (Ashley Burke/CBC)

The note, dated May 22, 2011, requested the statue be returned to Public Archives of Canada, now known as Library and Archives Canada.

"This statuette of Wolfe was stupidly stolen in the 1950s from the old building that then housed the Public Archives of Canada on Sussex Drive," the note read.

"It is returned through the charity of strangers because my conscience bothered me for a very long time and I am now an old man. I very much regret this act of foolishness and apologize to the authorities for having deprived the Archives of this artefact."

Meelker said the man left before he could be questioned further.

"It's so strange," Meelker said. "It was completely anonymous. And to choose the Lord Elgin … I can only say we are honoured."

The statuette of the British general who defeated the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham is missing its sword, and the base is slightly damaged.

Meelker said the statue was wrapped in a plastic Loblaws bag and held in a recyclable grocery bag when brought to the hotel.

She said it's not clear if the statuette is authentic, and Library and Archives Canada have yet to be able to determine if it was even stolen.

So for now, the statuette remains in a safe at the hotel.

"I have no idea of its value," Meelker said. "It's quite beautiful, so I only assume if it's not of monetary value it's more about its history and its relevance."