GUTLESS thieves may have ransacked their home of 50 years but Raymond Terrace great-grandparents Bob and Winifred Connell have refused to let it ruin their Christmas.
The brave pair, 92 and 91 years-old respectively, awoke early yesterday to find intruders had rifled through their home as they slept, and torched their car less than a kilometre away.
Mr Connell, a former World War II bomber pilot and Freeman of the City of Port Stephens, said open drawers throughout the house, including some just inches from their beds, alerted him of the break-in.
Still trying to determine the total loss, the former Port Stephens Council executive said the heartless thieves had taken his wallet, which contained money withdrawn to buy Christmas presents this week.
The list of stolen items also included their house keys and batteries from a TV remote, as well as the car and Christmas cash.
‘‘They must have been absolutely desperate to go through the remote for the batteries,’’ Mr Connell said.
‘‘I feel totally violated, you’re just looking around every corner.’’
Mr Connell said it was at least the fourth time his house had been robbed in the past 15 years.
This latest ordeal, however, he described as ‘‘very vindictive’’.
‘‘I think it has touched us more than any of the others because we were not involved personally [before] but this time we are,’’ Mr Connell said. ‘‘[The thief] didn’t think very hard about what he did, the sort of [emotional] damage that he does without doing any physical damage.’’
Mrs Connell said the incident had also left her feeling unsure in her home.
‘‘I’m a bit nervous but Bob’s here so I’m all right,’’ she said.
Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie branded the robbery an ‘‘absolute disgrace’’.
‘‘For a WWII hero, a local community advocate and life-long resident of Port Stephens to be treated like this in his home town is appalling,’’ Cr MacKenzie said. ‘‘It sickens me.’’
The pair’s eldest son Geoff Connell said the family was devastated by the news and had rallied around Mr and Mrs Connell to ensure the thieves did not ruin Christmas.
‘‘They want to live in their own home and they’re doing a great job of it [but] we sort of feel impotent,’’ Mr Connell said.
‘‘How do you protect people in their own homes?’’
A police spokeswoman urged all residents to take precautions.
‘‘There are a number of steps that people can take to help stop break and enters, including ensuring all their gates are kept closed and locked, installing lights around the perimeter of their homes and reinforcing glass doors and windows,’’ she said.
‘‘Garages should be locked to restrict access, roller doors can be secured with additional locks, and garden tools, equipment and ladders should be locked away when not in use to prevent them being used to gain access to your home.’’