Museum theft: Museum rifle provides gun robbery clue

FORENSIC evidence extracted from one of four guns stolen from Busselton’s Old Butter Factory Museum in mid-January has led to a suspect being charged over the burglary and enabled the museum to get one of the guns back.

While the teenage suspect faced Busselton Children’s Court yesterday, where he was remanded to appear again on May 6 for legal advice, the stolen 1892 Winchester 3030 calibre repeating rifle was returned to the museum after three months in the hands of the police.

When the museum was broken into and robbed of the guns, the rifle was found on the premises the next morning.

It was believed the burglar had dropped the gun, and police confiscated it to be used as evidence.

The president of the Busselton Historical Society Alan Horridge said the guns were quite a collection of historical memorabilia and went back to the early days of the settlers and he was hoping that, with a suspect, police would be able to find out where the other guns are.

The stolen guns yet to be recovered are a Harper’s Ferry musket c1840, which was brought to WA by a Yankee whaler in the 1860s, a Belgian shotgun from the 1840s, and a revolver from 1860.

The revolver was issued to Elijah Dawson when he was made a special constable at Vasse.

All of the guns were inoperable and donated to the museum from various people over the years.

“Obviously the burglars knew what they were coming in for, because they didn’t touch anything else, they just took those (guns) off there and went out through the door and that was it,” Mr Horridge said.

Although police had charged a person for the burglary, Mr Horridge didn’t know whether that person would eventually reveal where the guns were or whether they had been sold out of the country as collectors’ items. However, the museum would make sure the guns couldn’t be stolen again and would keep the Winchester rifle in a safe place off the premises.

“Everybody is very upset about it (the burglary), and the fact that people can get in and do this, and that we have lost a valuable collection that’s very rare,” Mr Horridge said.

“But we are very pleased to see this one back. At least it’s a step on the way. Now we would like to see the rest of them back. Hopefully they will.”