Anzac marvel: Stolen relic returned to RSL

Anzac commemorations at the Murray Bridge RSL have turned to celebrations with a rapturous crowd cheering as a stolen World War I mortar was returned to the club under police escort.

Ben and Nicky McCulloch, from Tailem Bend, discovered the mortar on a roadside near the town on Anzac Day and received a hero’s welcome as they drove the relic back to the club just before mid-day.

Mr McCulloch said the couple had found the gun on Westbrook Road, near Tailem Bend, while driving a tow-truck to collect a drift car.

“We called the police but thought, we’ve got a tow-truck so why not pick it up,” he said.

“We met the police at Tailem Bend and drove it back here.”

Murray Bridge RSL sub-branch president Ray Duthie said it was fantastic to see the gun returned and placed back in the middle of a new memorial garden, which had been due to be unveiled on Anzac Day.

“It just goes to show what can happen when the police and the community work together,” Mr Duthie said.

Mr Duthie said he had only heard the mortar had been discovered 25 minutes before it arrived back at the club and said he and the members were overjoyed at the news.

However, he said there was still not a lot of sympathy for the thieves.

“Absolutely, they should be pursued,” he said.

Andrew McDonald, from Murray Bridge, along with fellow residents Tony Abbondandolo, Peter Donhardt and Paul Bryan wasted no time in grabbing the gun from the back of the tow-truck and returning it to its rightful position between two memorial tablets at the front of the RSL club.

“It’s fantastic to have it back,” Mr McDonald said.

“We’re just happy, thrilled to be able to lift it off the truck and put it back in its rightful spot.”

Cheering crowds gathered around the volunteers and the heroes of the day to congratulate them for their efforts.

On Wednesday, Murray Mallee Police superintendent Les Buckley said the thieves faced penalties of up to 15 years in jail over the crime, telling reporters police were committed to hunting them down. 

The theft sparked widespread outrage earlier this week after RSL members arrived at the club on Tuesday to discover the mortar was gone.

State and national media quickly descended on Murray Bridge and one community member even offered a $5000 reward to help police in their efforts to find the cannon and the culprits. 

- Details: Anyone with information on the theft should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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