Confusion as bell that vanished from Auckland church turns up safe in neighbour's garage

4:40 pm on 5 June 2024

A large bell reported stolen from a now-closed Sandringham church has been found safe, in a neighbour's garage.

The bell was taken from St Martin's at St Chad's church. It was donated more than six decades ago by former deputy mayor of Mt Albert, Alice Wylie, in memory of her husband.

The neighbour, Philippa, who only wanted to use her first name, said she called police after seeing two people stealing the bell during the day in January.

"I was gardening and I could hear the noise of the bell being stolen. I went to see what was going on. A car came out [of the church carpark] with two people in it going very fast so I took pictures and rang the police and let them know."

The bell weighs about 1000kg was taken from St Martin's at St Chad's church on Auckland’s Sandringham Rd. It has been found safe in neighbour Philippa's garage.

The neighbour says she saw the bell being taken in January 2024. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

She said police later told her they caught the thieves and asked Philippa to store the bell in her garage.

"They told me they apprehended the people who had stolen the bell - the two people in the car. They brought the bell back and asked if they could pop it in my garage for the time being."

The bell weighs about 1000kg was taken from St Martin's at St Chad's church on Auckland’s Sandringham Rd.

Police asked the neighbour to store the bell in her garage. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Philippa said police were yet to give her a ring to pick up the bell and she would like to see it returned to the family who donated it.

A police spokesperson said they believe the theft occurred between 18 April and 1 May, which according to Philippa, did not ring true.

"Police can confirm we have received a report of property being taken from an address in Sandringham earlier this month. The report, at an address on Sandringham Road, was reported to police around 2.25pm on Monday 6 May."

RNZ told police Philippa had shown its reporter the bell in her garage, to which police replied: "Police would strongly encourage anyone with information on the whereabouts of the bell to please get in touch as soon as possible so staff can make appropriate follow up enquiries".

Auckland Anglican Diocese property manager Matthew Gunton said he reported the missing bell to police on 6 May when he noticed it was not on the roof of the building.

He also contacted media to raise awareness about the disappearance, which he said had been "distressing" for those involved.

The diocese was pleased the bell had been found and hoped to work with the neighbour and the daughter of the bell's donor to find it a new home, Gunton said.