Stolen handbag returned to owner in Chichester after 15 years

"I felt quite sad that someone had caused me so much distress for a small amount of cash which I would willingly have handed over if only they had asked."

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 3:16 pm

Those were the words of a selfless volunteer from Chichester who has remarkably been reunited with her handbag, which was stolen 15 years ago.

Jill Dennison was part of a group of people who raised money for St Wilfred's Hospice, by trekking around the Himalayas in 2006. Whilst training near Compton, Jill's handbag was stolen from her friend's car, along with many of her prized possessions, including family photographs.

Jill, who is now part of the fundraising team at Chichester Ship Canal Trust, said: "They invited me to join them with their training which meant strenuous, fast paced walks over hills and down dale.

Jill thought the theft 'was the end of my handbag and everything in it' but, to her amazement, she received a call from the hospice last week to say the bag had been found by a lady walking through the woods in Compton
Jill thought the theft 'was the end of my handbag and everything in it' but, to her amazement, she received a call from the hospice last week to say the bag had been found by a lady walking through the woods in Compton

"On this particular occasion they picked me up after work and we drove out into the country and parked the car. I, stupidly, put my bag in the back of the hatchback and covered it with a blanket and off we set.

"Whilst we were happily chatting and clocking up the miles, someone broke into the car and stole my handbag. I was mortified. It was like my life was taken

"I was also worried that details of my whole life were in the bag which included my Filofax, credit cards, house keys, mobile phone and contact details. Would they let themselves into my house and help themselves to even more of my possessions?

"Fortunately they didn’t."

The majority of Jill's items were still in the bag but it no longer has handles and is 'moss ridden and unmalleable' after lying in woodland for 15 years

Jill thought 'that was the end of my handbag and everything in it' but, to her amazement, she received a call from the hospice last week to say the bag had been found by a lady walking through the woods in Compton.

"I couldn't believe it," she said. "It still had my ID card from the hospice inside and the lady asked if I wanted it back.

"I picked it up from her address.

"It was like CSI, going through it all with gloves on."

The majority of the items were still in the bag, Jill said.

She added: "The bag now has no handles and is rather moss ridden and unmalleable after lying in woodland for 15 years

"The leather hasn’t softened and mellowed and the contents a lot worse for wear. It is quite well preserved.

"I suppose they took what they wanted and threw it. It's nice as I know what's happened to it now.

"I haven't got the heart to throw it away yet. What are the chances of this lady walking past and bothering to contact me?"