Craig Johnson spoke to local media about the theft. Picture: Prime7
Craig Johnson spoke to local media about the theft. Picture: Prime7

Couple’s ‘devastating’ $100k mistake

When Craig Johnson and his husband left their belongings in a storage facility, they thought it was a smart move.

They bought a "crazy industrial-strength lock" and believed their belongings - worth around $100,000 - would be secure.

The couple left the items in storage for just a few weeks after leaving their home in Goulburn in regional NSW and relocating to Albury.

But when they arrived to collect their belongings last weekend, they found the lock on their shed had disappeared - along with "almost everything" they owned.

Mr Johnson said the situation was ‘devastating’. Picture: Supplied
Mr Johnson said the situation was ‘devastating’. Picture: Supplied

Their priceless stolen items include everything from family heirlooms, antique furniture, wedding photos and artworks.

"It was pretty devastating … we were literally driving there to start unpacking our things and put them in our new house but we realised as soon as we got there that there was no lock - we knew someone had been there," Mr Johnson told news.com.au.

"We both went into shock - we weren't even angry, it was just shock and disbelief.

"We were duped - we were stupid enough to trust that this sort of thing wouldn't happen. "We still have each other - it's not like one of us were killed - but at the end of the day we've lost things from over 20 years of marriage, and it wasn't all monetary - everything we owned had an emotive story connected to it, so it's just horrific."

The painting on the left has disappeared along with the couple's carpet, china cabinet and art deco pedestal. Picture: Supplied
The painting on the left has disappeared along with the couple's carpet, china cabinet and art deco pedestal. Picture: Supplied

Mr Johnson said they had not heard from the police over any possible breakthroughs, although several clues were found at the scene and a forensic officer dusted for fingerprints.

He said after he reported the theft to PRDnationwide Albury, who managed the facility on behalf of the owners, he was told there had been a spate of storage complex thefts in Albury over the past six months.

He said the lock on the couple's own facility had been removed, probably with bolt cutters, but there was no sign of forced entry into the wider facility, which indicated the person responsible possibly had a key.

But in an added blow, the couple's insurer NRMA initially said their claim was invalid.

The antique phone, oak side table and tapestry-covered chair were also stolen. Picture: Supplied
The antique phone, oak side table and tapestry-covered chair were also stolen. Picture: Supplied

That's because they failed to notify the company their belongings had been temporarily placed in storage - a detail Mr Johnson said was listed in the fine print of NRMA's disclaimer.

"We had insured all our home contents with NRMA for $140,000 in previous years but because we didn't tell them we had put it somewhere else, they said they're not paying," Mr Johnson said.

He said the stolen goods included "100 years' worth of heirlooms" from his partner's "old farming family" - including crystal, Royal Doulton dinner sets, a relative's gold fob watch from the 1920s and antique rosewood furniture.

Several paintings by renowned Australian artist Sandro Nocentini - which Mr Johnson bought 25 years ago with a "small inheritance" - have also been stolen.

"The paintings are absolutely unique - there aren't two of them anywhere in the world, so hopefully someone will get tripped up with them because you can't sell them and say they were your grandmother's or something," Mr Johnson said.

The artist has shared the paintings on his social media networks in an attempt to track them down.

Mr Johnson said he had two pieces of advice for others in a similar situation.

"Don't be naive like we were and don't put your things in a complex that doesn't have CCTV," he said.

"And if you find you need to put your belongings in a storage unit, make sure you contact the insurance company and find out in black and white they are covering you."

There has allegedly been a ‘spate’ of similar thefts in the area. Picture: Prime7
There has allegedly been a ‘spate’ of similar thefts in the area. Picture: Prime7

An NRMA Insurance spokesman told news.com.au the company understood the loss of personal belongings was "distressing for our customers".

He confirmed Mr Johnson and his husband's claim had since been reviewed and NRMA believed it "will be able to provide cover for a number of the stolen items".

"Under our home and contents policy, customers need to contact us if they decide to put any of their contents in storage and provide us with the storage address and the value of the contents," the spokesman said.

"It's important we speak with our customers about the items they want to put in storage and understand whether we can provide full or partial cover, as there may be limits or exclusions for certain items stored outside the home.

"Moving items to a different location may also impact the premium paid by the customer depending on the security of the new storage location."

NSW Police and PRDnationwide Albury have been contacted for comment.

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Crimestoppers or Albury police.


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