“Organised crime” blamed for heritage thefts

DERWENT Valley Mayor Tony Nicholson has blamed “professional vandals” for the theft of historic items and damage to heritage buildings at New Norfolk. Four months after being asked for access to the council’s inventory of historical items held at the Willow Court historic site, Councillor Nicholson has admitted that the inventory “may not now reflect the current items held”.

In a letter dated January 12, Cr Nicholson continued: “Many steps were taken to protect these items including security, steel door structures and stronger locking mechanisms, but this unfortunately did not protect some of those items from professional vandalism.”

Over a number of years local historians have been expressing concern about the security of heritage items stored at Willow Court, in particular the workings of a tower clock from Port Arthur, which are understood to have been completely destroyed while in the council’s care. One of the large clock faces remains in a local gallery but the fate of two matching clock faces held by the council is not known.

The council cannot be held responsible for acts of vandalism, but the mayor’s admissions clearly reflect a failure to find more secure storage for the priceless heritage items in the council’s care. It must be asked what action will be taken to ensure there are any items left by the time the council opens Willow Court to visitors other than VIPs on personally guided tours with the mayor.

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