Hooded thieves make off with weathervane

Rhonda Dredge

A 100-year-old copper weathervane in the form of a galleon-style sailing ship has been stolen from its rightful place atop the historic Mission to Seafarers building in Docklands. 

The weathervane was discovered as missing on Sunday, March 6, and is believed to have been stolen from the roof of the building overnight. 

Mission to Seafarers Victoria CEO Sue Dight has appealed to anyone who may have any information to come forward or to contact police. 

A reward of $500 has been offered for information leading to the vane’s recovery.

The vane was hacked through by thieves over a three-day period, putting the Mission under pressure.

When Ms Dight got a text from a resident across the road from the Mission, it was the news she’d been dreading. There was a picture of the metal stump on the roof and a message: “OMG. Gone.”

Sue was devastated. She thought she had the thieves beat. They’d tried and failed already to cut through the vane on Thursday night and now returned to finish off the job.

“They damaged and moved the cameras,” Sue told Docklands News. “All we have is a shot of an ankle and a hoodie.”

The first clue to the impending theft was the discovery of a plastic chair on one of the roofs overlooking the western courtyard on the Friday morning.

Sue began an inspection, first for graffiti. “From the windows you can view all sections of the roof,” she said, “but what we found was a hacksaw. I immediately thought of the weathervane.”

The vane was still there but when she zoomed in on a photograph, she noticed a small cut in the supporting rod. From there, a crime that should have been prevented, moved from the reckless to the ridiculous.

Police were informed, security cameras replaced, a private security firm contacted and attempts made to block the way in, but the thieves returned, possibly over the next two nights.

They got in by climbing over the back fence abutting a construction site and jumped onto the roof from there, Sue said.

On Saturday morning a pair of boots and a neatly folded jacket were found in an alcove off the western courtyard.

The thieves then returned the following night about 3am. By Sunday morning the vane was gone.

“The little knobby part. That’s all that was left,” Sue said. “They came back with a portable angle grinder to finish off the job.”

She said the vane was about the dimensions of a person and weighed at least 30 kilograms so it wouldn’t have been easy to carry.

“I feel devastated by the loss because we spent so much time and effort having it restored two to three years ago,” she said.

The vane is worth about $50,000 to replace and has been on the pinnacle of the Mission since 1917 to direct captains preparing to leave port. Local master craftsman Henry Alfred Saw crafted the weathervane.

After a century on the rooftop in high winds, the weathervane was in need of repair. In 2020 through a grant from the Victorian Heritage Restoration Fund, as well as private and public contributions, it was restored and secured to the top of the building.

The weathervane is unusually intricate and represents the high levels of both craftmanship and artistry.

“The way the metal of the sails curve as though billowing in the wind, the bulging hull of the ship, and the delicate rigging details make it quite a special object for something that is also structurally robust, and was intended to serve use as a meteorological instrument,” Ms Dight said.

Tragically, the vane is likely to be melted down for its copper. “I’m hoping that because it’s such a special piece it may be recovered.”

Razor wire has now been installed to stop any further incursions onto the Mission’s tiles •


Caption: Sue Dight in the western courtyard where thieves scaled the roof.

Join Our Facebook Group