UPDATE, 2pm Friday: The mother of the late Jack Cutcliffe says she’s “very, very grateful” to have his precious framed rugby jumper back home barely 24 hours after its theft.
The memorial item was handed in to Tamworth police last night, after a huge campaign in traditional and social media to see it returned.
Michelle Cutcliffe said she and husband Tom were working on their property when they received a call from the president of Pirates Rugby Club, from where the jersey had been stolen on Tuesday afternoon.
“Stuart Prowse rang us ... about 6 and said he wanted to pop out – we just thought he was popping out to [kick] the cat like we were,” she said.
“He drove in and out he popped with a detective and the treasurer of Pirates, and then they dragged the frame out of the back of the car.”
Mrs Cutcliffe said the item was “spotless, nothing wrong with it”.
“I just couldn’t believe it. I thought they might be bringing the remains of what had been found – the things that go through your mind,” she said.
“We’re very, very grateful it’s back again, and everyone was so amazing.”
Jack’s number 6 jersey had been hanging in the clubhouse since a couple of months after the teenager’s death of a heart attack on March 30 last year.
Thieves broke into the building through a roller door, ransacked the clubhouse and took other framed jumpers, alcohol, flatscreen TVs and electronic gear.
But Mrs Cutcliffe said the jumper would be back in pride of place there, “where it belongs”.
“They’re getting things fixed up at Pirates, but he’ll be back there – he’s just spending a few days with us for now,” she said.
Oxley LAC Chief Inspector Jeff Budd said the jersey was back in the right hands because “outraged community members were able to facilitate [its] return”.
“The sentimental value of that item, one can only imagine what it means to a family,” he said.
“We have some other evidence we’re examining from the crime scene, which will hopefully give us some results on identifying who we think the offenders are.
“No other items have been returned at this point; the focus for police and community was to get that sentimental item back.
“I think people realised how horrible it was for the family to be devastated again by the loss of the item and that weighed on their conscience, and they stood up and took the right action …
“It’s just nice to see nice things happen sometimes.”
Mr Prowse said the club had suffered several thousand dollars’ worth of damage and the members were sorting out insurance and tidying up.
But Jack’s jumper would “come back pride of place when we get things sorted out”.
He said the club was “extremely grateful for everyone’s help”.
“There is no doubt that everyone’s support during this time helped to bring Jack’s jersey home.
“We will be forever grateful for everyone’s assistance.”
UPDATE, 8am Friday: The Jack Cutcliffe memorial jersey has been recovered and returned to the Cutcliffe family.
Oxley LAC Chief Inspector Jeff Budd said that due to hard work by the community, the jersey – which was actually worn by the 16-year-old before his death almost a year ago – was back in the right hands.
“We are very pleased to announce that people in our community were outraged at the theft of this most important piece of memorabilia,” he posted on Chief Inspector Budd posted on the Facebook late on Wednesday night.
“Late [Wednesday] afternoon as a result of great community work we have been able to recover Jack’s guernsey and return it to his family.
“We know there are good people out in our community and we are grateful for their assistance. We will pursue the offenders.”
EARLIER, 9am Wednesday: FAMILY and friends of the late 16-year-old Jack Cutcliffe are pleading for the return of a framed jumper after it was stolen from the Pirates clubhouse.
The number 6 jersey, which Jack had actually worn, had been hanging in the clubhouse since a couple of months after the teenager’s death of a heart attack on March 30 last year.
It’s now missing after thieves broke into the Kent Street premises yesterday afternoon, stealing it along with two flatscreen TVs, a number of other framed jumpers, alcohol and other goods.
Pirates Rugby Club president Stuart Prowse said the other items could be replaced but not this.
“That’s what really upset everyone more than anything; the other stuff – well, people break in, they steal stuff, but it’s just mindless to steal something like that,” he said.
“I’d have to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they didn’t realise the importance of it …
“The other stuff can be replaced, but this really can’t – it was his jumper that he played in.
“It really has a lot of meaning to the club, and to the wider rugby community.”
Mum Michelle was too distraught to say much about the incident, but told The Leader the jumper held a great deal of meaning.
“The Pirates retired the number six after Jack passed away,” she said.
She wrote on social media that Jack’s circle desperately wanted the jumper back, “no questions asked, stick it in the post box at Southgate, anything, just send it back”.
“It would hold no value to anyone, so we are hoping that anyone who may know anything about this will get the jumper back to the Pirates or give it to someone that will find a way for it to come home, please.”
Jack had been the captain of the under-17s team and father Tom the team manager as well as one of the club vice-presidents.
Mr Prowse said that giving the jumper pride of place at the clubhouse was “just fitting” for what Jack and his family meant to the club.
“He was a good kid and had a lot of respect … this was just a tribute to Jack from the club, because it really rocked the club,” he said.
“This was lasting recognition of Jack there, that he wasn’t forgotten.”
It’s believed the clubhouse was broken into about 3pm yesterday.
The clubhouse has security cameras, but the thieves stole the hard drive containing the footage.
A police report has been made and forensic officers will investigate.
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