Dartmouth woman reunited with stolen purse after nearly 40 years

It was an unlikely reunion ripe with nostalgia.

Liz Campbell, 60, was recently reunited with her small black purse — nearly 40 years after it was stolen from a filing cabinet at a Catholic pastoral centre on Grafton Street in Halifax.

The recovered items included car keys, an unopened pack of Certs, a tube of Lypsyl, her original birth certificate, photos of old friends, a hair brush and Mary Kay makeup.

“It was quite a shock,” Campbell told CBC’s Maritime Noon. “We thought it was a lost cause and long gone.”

On Dec. 1, 1980, Campbell had returned to work at the pastoral centre after visiting the bank on her lunch break. She put her purse in a filing cabinet and went across the hall to the lunch room.

Christmas cash lost

When she returned to the filing cabinet moments later, the purse was gone.

“We phoned the police and it was not to be found anywhere,” said Campbell, who lives in Dartmouth.

Campbell had just withdrawn $225 ⁠— money she had planned to spend on Christmas presents. She described it as a “significant loss” at that point in her life.

But there was a silver lining amid the holiday hardship: the Catholic pastoral centre reimbursed the cash.

“They felt somewhat responsible,” she said. “I don’t know why they would.”

Flash forward four decades and Campbell’s purse was found in the very same building, in the ceiling tiles inside the women’s washroom on the third floor.

Crime of opportunity

A company that was recently doing testing on the building came across the clutch.

She said the working theory was that she was followed from the bank, and that it was a crime of opportunity.

“No one would have expected that someone would have gone up a flight of stairs and put it in the third floor washroom,” said Campbell.

On Tuesday, she went back to the building and was reunited with her long lost handbag.

Sentimental items recovered

The purse was a time capsule of sorts, and one memento in particular evoked an emotional response: the keys to her grandfather’s car.

“The keys were on a special key tag that belonged to an uncle of mine who had recently passed away,” said Campbell, adding that she had just purchased her grandfather’s car because he had a brain disorder and had turned in his licence.

“It was very special to see them and it brought back a lot of memories.”

But there was one notable absence from the purse: the $225.

Campbell said she’s not sure what she’ll do with her refound relics, but it was suggested to her that she make a collage. The purse was dusty, and so she cleaned it up.

“I’ll probably keep it a while just as a reminder: things can happen,” she said.


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