Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Seekers


Reprinted with permission of the DC Public Library, Star Collection, © Washington Post.
January 31, 1981.  Loot recovered from Welch's Duluth, Minn., home was displayed at the Blue Plains Police Training Academy in Washington, D.C.  Robbery victims from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia were invited to view and claim their property. 

A month after the arrest of Bernard Welch, law enforcement learned how he had turned his stolen loot into cash.  Precious metals were melted and sent to refineries, the gems removed and sold separately;  coin collections were broken up and peddled to different dealers; antiques and collectibles went to auction houses to be resold; and fur coats were disposed of individually. In effect, stolen property had been spread across the country like strewing confetti in the wind.  The police advised the victims that, unless their homes were broken into from September to December of 1980, there was almost no hope of finding their stolen property.  Still they came; victims from as far back as five years ago arrived seeking their property.
Much of the property that Welch stole held more than monetary value.  When he invaded homes, he took irreplaceable family heirlooms: silver baby spoons with a child’s tooth marks; precious paintings of ancestors;  flintlock rifles used by relatives generations ago;  grandmother’s wedding ring brought from the old country; and prized collections that had taken years to accumulate. These victims hoped to find what no amount of insurance money could compensate for.
Reprinted with permission of the DC
Public Library, Star Collection,
© Washington Post.
The line of victims started on the sidewalk outside the police building. They patiently waited for hours, clutching copies of police reports as their tickets of admission.  The victims were mostly well dressed and grey haired. They were the owners of the large homes in the good neighborhoods that Bernard Welch preyed upon.  They had worked a lifetime to accumulate the things that Welch took.  Had he only taken money, they would not be here, because money can be replaced.  But the Ghost Burglar had also stolen things of sentiment and memory.
The dozens of police inside escorted each victim past the tables filled with thousands tagged items recovered from Bernard Welch’s homes in Duluth, Minn., and Great Falls, Va. The police officers understood why the seekers came and were patient.  Each victim had paid a heavy price for entry.
The majority found nothing and left to bury the last hope of rediscovering their lost memories, memories that could not now be passed on to their children.
                                                               ― James King


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