School children at Eltham Primary appeal to Pope to return their kidnapped Teddy

By Ilona Hanne -

A group of children from a South Taranaki primary school are appealing to the Pope to intervene in an international kidnapping case involving a very special bear.

When Eltham Primary School Room Two teacher Heather Nicholls told the Year 1 and 2 pupils she was going on a trip to Europe, they asked her to take one of the class teddy bears with her.

"They chose which bear should come on holiday with me," Nicholls said.

"Last time I went on a big trip we did the same and the children loved seeing all the photos featuring their class bear on holiday when I came back."

She said studies had shown the children benefit from the personal connection to a trip like that.

Teddy enjoying his holiday before he was kidnapped. Photo / supplied
Teddy enjoying his holiday before he was kidnapped. Photo / supplied

"When they see the photos of the bear in different places around the world it helps them remember the places better."

Teddy, the selected bear, accordingly packed his bags and set off with Nicholls and her partner Jamie McMahon on their travels.

The trip went without a hitch until Teddy, Nicholls and McMahon arrived in Rome.

"We had a great time exploring the sites, but then went to Vatican City where it all went wrong," Nicholls said.

"Jamie was taking a picture of me and Teddy standing outside when one of the Swiss Guards beckoned us over. I honestly thought he was going to offer to pose for a photo or to take one of the three of us, but he snatched the teddy bear off me and flung it into a small shed."

Heather Nicholls with Teddy at the Vatican just before he was confiscated. Photo / Supplied
Heather Nicholls with Teddy at the Vatican just before he was confiscated. Photo / Supplied

Horrified, Nicholls was speechless for a moment, while other tourists rushed over and asked if they were okay.

"Everyone who saw it happen was shocked."

The guard spoke no English and Nicholls couldn't get him to understand he had imprisoned a very important bear.

She spoke to the security guards and with the help of a translator got the message across.

The Swiss guard allegedly responsible for the international custody battle. Photo / supplied
The Swiss guard allegedly responsible for the international custody battle. Photo / supplied

"They then went to the guard and explained, but he refused to get Teddy out of the shed. He wouldn't even say why he had snatched him. He just made a sharp hand gesture saying no."

Nicholls and McMahon had to leave Teddy behind in Vatican City, locked in a dark shed.

While his adventures make for a funny story, there are 18 sad 6- and 7 year-olds who just want their special bear back.
Katheryn Pick

On arriving back in New Zealand, Nicholls told the pupils of Room 2 what had happened.

"They were really cross and sad. They know they wouldn't steal someone's teddy bear and don't understand why Teddy was taken."

School principal Katheryn Pick said she hoped Teddy would be returned to the school.

"While his adventures make for a funny story, there are 18 sad 6- and 7 year-olds who just want their special bear back."

The children have now written letters to the Pope, asking him to intervene and get their bear back for them.

Pope Francis will be receiving letters from Room 2 of Eltham Primary. Photo / AP
Pope Francis will be receiving letters from Room 2 of Eltham Primary. Photo / AP

He will be able to find Teddy easily, they say, as their bear is very special and has plenty of notable features.

"He is really fluffy," says Imogen Lynch, 6.

Tennesse Thomas, 7, says Teddy is cuddly too: "I always cuddled him when I did my reading, now I can't".

"He is soft and comfortable," adds Riki Shelford-Salt, 6.

As well as missing their special friend, the youngsters are worried about how Teddy will be feeling alone in a foreign country.

"He will be sad all by himself in the dark," says Sophie Mita, 6.

The children hope the Pope gets their letters and video message and will find a way to send Teddy back to them, where his friends are all waiting to see him again.

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