THE Daylesford community has been rocked by the theft of more than $100,000 worth of religious artefacts – some dating back 400 years – from a district church.
Police are calling for assistance following the burglary on Tuesday night, when the items were stolen from The Christ Church on Central Springs Road.
Anglican Bishop of Bendigo Andrew Curnow described the items as “irreplaceable”.
“I would have to say we are devastated,” he said. “It (the burglary) appears to be very well-planned and executed.”
Stolen items included a 17th century mirror, a 140-year-old lectern, a carved wooden eagle, a 17th century timber screen with an image of Mary and a gem-encrusted brass and silver cross.
Anglican priest and the rector of Daylesford Father Jeff O’Hare said he discovered the break-in at 8.30am Wednesday.
“I thought ‘gosh the place is looking empty’ and suddenly I realised an enormous amount of stuff was gone,” he said.
“It took me three hours to absorb just how much was missing.
“So far I have worked out there are 30 to 35 items gone.”
The Book of Gospels, the bishop’s chair, a cross and candlesticks were also taken from the church.
Fr O’Hare said the church had an open-door policy and the building was left open during the day and occasionally at night. The church was left open on the night of the burglary.
“What I want to say is, please understand what you have,” he said.
“They are beyond just objects and pieces of artwork, they are meaningful to this community and the journey of this parish.”
He said it appeared the thieves had been well organised in the way they removed items from the church.
Parishioner Grace Provan said she was told about the burglary via an email from the church on Thursday morning.
“Even the chair he sits on – they took that as well.
For someone to come in here and do that, to walk into God’s house and take whatever they want for money, come on,” she said.
“As soon as I read the email I started crying, I said to my partner, ‘how can anybody do such a vicious and horrible thing?’ although there is no damage.
“They have just come in and took whatever they wanted. It is not fair that they would come and take something that doesn’t belong to them.”
It is not known how many people were involved in the burglary.
"It (the burglary) appears to be very well planned and executed"Bishop Andrew Curnow
However, because the items were quite heavy, it is thought there may have been several offenders.
A small van or utility may also have been used, due to the number of items stolen.
Moorabool Criminal Investigation Unit Detective Sergeant Tony Coxall said forensics teams had been through the church and police were waiting for some of the results to come back.
“At the moment we are really appealing for information regarding any of these items. It is really hard to get rid of these items locally or even interstate, if we go that far, and we will,” he said.
“They are the type of items that will stand out and it is rare to have these sorts of things stolen from a church.”
Detective Sergeant Coxall said he would be contacting antique dealers to ask them to keep an eye out for the items.
He said the value of items could be as high as $130,000.
Detectives are calling for anyone with information about the burglary or who may have seen any suspicious activity within the vicinity of the church to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppers.com.au