Thief phones Reverend to confess raid on Wollongong church nativity scene

DISAPPOINTING: "Volunteers were very upset." Wesley Uniting Church's Rachael McGarry reacts to the theft, at the hands of three late-night mall visitors (inset), of elements of the church's nativity scene. Main picture: Sylvia Liber

DISAPPOINTING: "Volunteers were very upset." Wesley Uniting Church's Rachael McGarry reacts to the theft, at the hands of three late-night mall visitors (inset), of elements of the church's nativity scene. Main picture: Sylvia Liber

Three people who raided a church nativity scene during a drunken stroll through Wollongong mall have handed themselves in to police, following a public shaming.

Baby Jesus vanished from the Wesley Uniting Church’s display Friday night, along with a plywood lamb and donkey that had been keeping watch over the manger. 

CCTV cameras captured a thieving trio – two women and a man – carrying the cut-outs from the mall. Their pictures were then widely circulated on social media as Wollongong Police became involved.

The church’s Reverend Geoffrey Flynn said the three had since handed themselves in to police, and one had phoned him to apologise and offer Jesus’ safe return. 

“She’s showed deep remorse,” Rev Flynn said. “They realised that they acted impulsively and foolishly and they realise now it wasn’t a wise thing to have done.” 

Rev Flynn said he was satisfied with the apology. We will just be pleased to receive the items back,” he said. “Hopefully it sends a message to the community to respect things that are there for the public.”

”We're not looking to press charges. We’re happy to just move on and show forgiveness to the people.

“The public response sort of brought us a bit of joy. We were quite despondent on the Sunday morning, when we were reflecting on what had happened. But we didn’t think we’d get such support.”

Rachael McGarry, the church’s office secretary, said the cut-outs were crafted by volunteers. 

“They were coming to bolt them down a bit better on Saturday morning and just went, ‘oh’,” Ms McGarry said. “They were very upset. It was disappointing that we couldn’t put stuff out in the mall - getting into the Christmas spirit - without someone damaging it.” 

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