Thieves who ruined Christmas
THE thieves who stole a miniature train and truck used in a popular Christmas attraction may have robbed the region of much more.
Angela and Jim Clark's Christmas lights show at 43 Turf St, Grafton, has become a Christmas must-see over the past 16 years.
On late Saturday/early Sunday, the twin centrepieces of their Santa's Wonderland show - a ride-on mower converted into a train and a model Mack truck - were stolen from the yard.
The theft has devastated the couple, who is now seriously considering pulling the plug on their show that which has raised about $44,000 for the Children's Hospital at Westmead.
"Because of the amount of money we've raised, we're now a major sponsor of the hospital," Mrs Clark said.
The Clarks have offered a cash reward for information that leads to the arrest of the people responsible.
On Sunday, police investigating the theft were as gobsmacked as the couple at the heartlessness of the thieves, as well as the level of planning that went into it.
"They would have needed a big trailer, a horse float or a truck to carry everything they took," Mrs Clark said.
"The police agree it had to be planned. They knew exactly where everything was and came prepared with bolt cutters to cut the padlock on the gate."
The theft is such a low act it has left the couple wondering why it happened.
"It's such a strange thing to steal. You could never convert them into a mower again and the items are so recognisable, I would know them instantly if I saw them," she said.
It has been a tough couple of years, with Mrs Clark recovering from a breast cancer operation and chemotherapy in 2011 and her husband involved in a serious car crash that left him needing ongoing surgery.
The couple was planning to introduce a "virtual Santa" as the climax of the next Christmas Wonderland ride.
"But now this has happened we just don't feel like going ahead with it. It just takes everything out of you," Mrs Clark said.
The train was introduced about five years ago and had been a huge hit, largely because of the efforts of Waterview brothers John and Graham Fitzpatrick.
"I bought an old ride-on mower and asked John and Graham Fitzpatrick if they could weld a drum onto it to make it look like a train," Mrs Clark said.
"They really put their heart and soul into it and came up with something that looked absolutely fantastic. I got a signwriter to write the name on it and we called it Fitz's Puff Puff."
The couple got the scaled-down Mack truck from Victoria.
Grafton police duty officer Inspector Murray Gillett said there was not a lot to go on and police were looking for members of the public to come forward with information.
"We're set up on the internet and have our Facebook page, Eyewatch, which people can use," he said.
Alternatively, contact Grafton police on 6642 0222.