A World War I machine gun has been stolen from the Wallendbeen Memorial Hall and police are appealing for leads.
Wallendbeen’s Eve Everingham, who discovered the theft, said the gun had been mounted above the stage in the hall since it was opened in 1922 and has never, to her knowledge, been taken down.
Some 10 metres in the air and bolted to the wall, the thief or thieves clearly went to some effort to steal the German Maxim machine gun.
Cootamundra duty officer Inspector Frank Brown said police have been advised the gun was seized in Belgium in October 1917 during World War I, and was presented to the local community five years later.
“It’s been there for more than 90 years and was mounted on a wall 10 metres from the ground, which means it would have been difficult to remove,” Inspector Brown said.
“Since it was reported missing on Tuesday (August 19), the scene has been examined by a Scene of Crime Officer, and an extensive canvass of the area has been conducted by Cootamundra detectives,” he added.
Given the circumstances of the theft and the lapse of time since its donation in 1922, Inspector Brown said police are unable to confirm that the weapon was no longer functional, however, Mrs Everingham said it is assumed the firing pin had been taken out prior to the gun being mounted.
The perpetrators of the crime had broken into the hall through the lobby door. Mrs Everingham said she noticed it was off its hinges and was not closing properly before she noticed the gun was missing.
The hall is not used all the time so the timeframe for its theft is broad with those associated with the hall narrowing it down to between the third Tuesday in July and the first Tuesday in August.
She reported that forensic examiners had been and no fingerprints were found indicating a professional job.
The theft is the subject of ongoing investigations.
“We urge anyone with any information to contact Cootamundra Police,” Inspector Brown said.
Anyone with information can contact Cootamundra Police Station on 6942 0099 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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