Family saddened by museum theft
By KAY BLUNDELL – The Dominion Post Last updated 05:00 12/01/2010
The theft of the late Sir Len Southward’s original driver’s licence and his private collection of old commemorative coins and bank notes from Southward Car Museum has left his family bitterly disappointed.
Thieves smashed a glass fire door to gain entry to the Kapiti Coast museum overnight last Thursday and broke into two glass cabinets, taking two of Sir Len’s driver’s licences, including his original, dating back to about 1915, about 30 overseas commemorative coins and 60 laminated bank notes.
The haul included Dutch, American and New Zealand commemorative coins marking significant world events, such as Commonwealth Games, some emblazoned with the heads of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and about 20 laminated overseas and local bank notes, all dating back to the 1950s.
Sir Len’s niece and Southward office manager, Sue Beissel, said the theft was disappointing for the family. “My uncle and auntie had collected them, I remember dusting them in their china cabinets when I was little. It is not that they were worth a lot of money, it is their sentimental value,” she said.
The break-in caused about $2500 of damage. The goods are insured, but assessing their value will be difficult as most are irreplaceable.
The collection was moved from Sir Len’s home to the museum about five years ago after he died.
“It is disappointing and scary. We give to the community and they get taken from us. Sir Len gave this museum to the country. You would think the community would be proud of this legacy but there are a few that leave a sour taste,” she said.
Although security systems were installed at the museum, video footage failed to identify the thieves as security cameras did not activate lighting at the time.
It was not the first time the museum had been hit by thieves. About six months ago two donated carved ivory tusks were stolen, and had not been recovered.
Sir Len set up the museum and auditorium in 1979, displaying more than 350 classic and vintage cars. Last year more than 46,000 tourists visited the museum.
“The only good thing is that the cars were not damaged,” she said.
Southward manager and trustee Stan Bellamore said Sir Len’s licences were of value only to the family and he believed the damage inflicted by the thieves cost more than the value of the items stolen.