Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Pilfering a GU Landmark

New details emerged about the theft of the Healy clock hands this week, as university safety officials said they were pursuing a new lead in the case and campus speculation continued about the fate of one of Georgetown’s most familiar sights.

The hands of Healy’s westward-facing clock were stolen sometime during the last full weekend of September, according to administrators. Scaffolding set up on the Dahlgren side of Healy appeared to provide a direct path to the building’s fifth floor last week, and an open window near the scaffolding could have provided an entrance into the clock tower.

But a series of e-mails received by THE HOYA this week from individuals claiming to be responsible for the theft indicated that the thieves took a different route to the tower’s top, passing through several locked doors.

The individuals, whose identities could not be independently verified by THE HOYA, claimed to be a group of four upperclassmen who had planned the theft for at least several months. Their e-mails included a number of digital photographs of the interior of the clock tower and of the clock’s hands.

Photographs of the students holding the clock hands were altered or cropped to mask their faces.

In a telephone interview with a reporter, two of the students confirmed the information in their e-mails and provided details of the theft that verified their presence in the clock tower. They refused to disclose their identities, however.

The e-mails indicated that the individuals are still in possession of the hands, and that they are awaiting input from other students before deciding what to do with them.

“Although a few administrative officials have expressed their concern, we feel that the underlying sentiment of the student body has been very encouraging,” the students wrote in an e-mail. “We’ve known each other since freshman year and have been dreaming of and planning the heist ever since.”

Campus safety officials said yesterday that they had a new lead in the case. David Morrell, vice president for university safety, suggested that the lead was related to new information obtained by THE HOYA.

The e-mails also claimed to explain why the Dahlgren-facing clock’s hands – rather than the more prominent east clock hands – were stolen, saying that a plan to distract DPS officers from their patrols on the front lawn failed, causing the students to take the hands from the “less-protected Dahlgren side.”

The students said that they entered the tower from an unmarked door outside Gaston Hall, traveling up the tower through a series of locked doors while evading other security measures. After the fourth locked door, the students said they were able to roam freely in the clock tower, climbing up wooden ladders, photographing themselves with a mannequin dressed as a DPS officer – apparently designed to deter intruders – and marking the tower’s huge bell.

Photographs taken by the intruders show that they unhinged at least one locked door to gain entry to the tower itself. The students also either picked or broke locks that were securing the door, the pictures indicated.

In their e-mails, the students said they were following the longstanding tradition among Georgetown students of taking the hands from Healy’s clock, then mailing them to the Vatican. The hands were previously stolen in 2001 and 1993.

Karen Frank, vice president for facilities and student housing, said that the clock hands will not be replaced until the scaffolding is removed from Healy’s wall in December.

Morrell and DPS Director Darryl Harrison declined to comment further on the case yesterday, saying only that the investigation is ongoing.

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