Hastings church bible thief returns it after 42 years

Bible that was taken from church The 200-year-old bible was taken from the church 42 years ago
Bible that was taken from church The thief said his wife had been "pretty angry" with him for taking the book

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A 200-year-old bible that was stolen from an East Sussex church 42 years ago has been returned by the man who took it.

Simon Scott, treasurer of Holy Trinity Church in Hastings, said a German man had taken the book in 1971.

He had come to the town with his wife to take an English language course, but was not satisfied with the teaching.

He then took the bible intending to read it and improve his English, but never got round to it.

Mr Scott said that he received an anonymous letter from the thief, which said: "You won't believe receiving this letter and you certainly won't believe receiving a bible in the post shortly."

Interior of Holy Trinity Church The huge leather-bound edition of The Holy Bible was sent in a box

A big box containing a huge leather-bound edition of The Holy Bible with brass clasps, later arrived.

'Guilty conscience'

"He found the course was very much below par, it fell very short of expectations, despite being quite expensive," Mr Scott said the man had written.

"Some of the lessons were held in the church premises and he said he saw these bibles just sitting there, unused he felt.

"And by some sort of compensation for this very poor, expensive course, he decided to take one and try and read it at home and improve his English that way.

"In fact, he said in the letter 'I never got round to doing it'."

The thief said his wife had been "pretty angry" with him for taking the book.

"Whenever I came across the bible I would have this guilty conscience about doing it," he added in the letter.

"I've never managed to pluck up the courage to come and hand it back personally.

"But now that I've retired, I've definitely decided to get on the right side of things."

Mr Scott said he did not think the book was worth much.

"These kind of bibles were kind of standard for well-to-do families in the old days," he said.

"They used to bring it out at meal times and read it to the children but these days of course, we don't do that sort of thing and so there are a number of them lying around in churches.

"We've got ours back."

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