A BIG-HEARTED publican has been left distraught and a local charity robbed of thousands of dollars after a brazen break-in at a Riverina hotel on Monday.
A lone thief, wearing a black hoodie and with his face obscured, broke into the South Hay Hotel at about 2.30am, swiping two charity collection tins and making off with the pub’s safe, which had more than $30,000 cash in it.
Publican Sue Vitucci, who is renowned for her legendary fundraising efforts at the hotel in recent years, said she was not insured for the theft.
“It’s just devastating; I haven’t stopped crying all day,” Mrs Vitucci said.
“We’ve been here for 10 years and we’ve had four break-ins. The worst thing is, they’ve all been locals.”
The break-in was captured on the pub’s CCTV and police are calling on information to track down the culprit.
Last August, thieves made off with more than $2000 that had been stuck to the roof by patrons as part of a novel fundraising drive for Hay CanAssist.
In this week’s break-in, the offender snatched charity collection tins from the bar for CanAssist and Camp Quality, containing hundreds of dollars. About $1000 of the money in the safe was also for Hay CanAssist.
Mrs Vitucci said she had a stomach-churning sense of deja vu as she opened up the pub on Monday morning.
“Things looked out of place as soon as we opened the door and my husband noticed the CanAssist money box missing,” she said.
“There was glass all over the floor and we rushed to the office and found the safe was gone too. It’s just disgusting.”
The thief even climbed onto the bar and plucked two $50 notes that had been stuck to the roof for charity, she said. The pub’s trolley, which was used to move the safe, was later found dumped on the levee bank at South Hay. The hotel has raised more than $40,000 for CanAssist all-up.
Its affiliation with the charity started in 2009, when local barfly Jack Gannon passed away and the Vituccis saw first-hand the help CanAssist offered. Mrs Vitucci later became secretary of the local Hay branch.