Petty thieves hit Weary Dunlop’s statue

THE theft of money from a tin collecting donations to maintain Benalla’s Weary Dunlop statue is a “slap in the face” for war veterans.

The tin, that sits near the statue in the Benalla Botanical Gardens, was cut open about 1am on Saturday.

Benalla RSL sub-branch president Jeff Lewis said the act was “disgusting”.

Mr Lewis said the tin was emptied regularly and there would not have been a large amount of money in it.

“They are cowards who won’t go in and rob a bank,” he said.

“It’s just a real slap in the face for our veterans and a lot of people who donated for that statue to be commissioned.

“I am very shocked and not real happy.”

The statue of Benalla’s favourite son, Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, was unveiled in 1994.

Sir Edward was the legendary surgeon who did so much to keep Diggers alive in Japanese concentration camps during World War II.

Because of his leadership skills, he was placed in charge of prisoner-of-war camps in Java.

He was transferred to Changi and, in January, 1943, he commanded the first Australians sent to work on the Thai segment of the Burma-Thailand railway.

“He’s an icon for ex-servicemen and women,” Mr Lewis said.

“This is a despicable act pure and simple. It’s just vandalism.”

Benalla’s Sgt Harry Verbaken said it was disappointing that people would steal the money and rob the community.

He said it was obvious they wanted money.

“The tin never has much money in it. It’s more the fact that they have gone and done this,” he said.

Sgt Verbaken said two people were seen in the area about the time of the theft but police did not yet have a description of them.

Anybody with information is urged to contact (03) 5760 0200.