An Australian hospital has received a mysterious handwritten letter of apology and a $20 note for a nurse's theatre cap "stolen" more than 50 years ago.
The letter, one of two posted to Narrabri District Hospital in central northern NSW, apologises for "my theft" of the cap worn by the former nurse "back in the 1960s when I worked in your hospital in the operating theatre".
The letter's writer sets out to explain "an episode" which led to the "theft".
"By mistake I had a theatre cap in my room and used it to clean my shoes, instead of picking up my shoe cloth."
She goes on to write "I owe you for 1 theatre cap - could you please send me the price of a new one so that I may restore to you what I owe."
Narrabri Hospital health services manager Sharon Simpson responded to the letter writer, now a woman in her 80s who lives in a nursing home, and explained that she didn't owe them anything, and that nurses now wore disposable caps.
But the manager was to receive a further letter which contained a $20 note.
"Dear Ms Simpson, Thank you for your reply to my letter," the former nurse wrote.
"I have been a Bible student for many years and in it says that if we steal something that does not belong to us we must restore 4 x the value.
"I allowed $5 for the cap. Please allow $20 and put it towards the next order of disposable caps or whatever you need, Yours faithfully [name withheld]," she wrote.
Other than the name of the former nurse, the woman's identity and story were a secret.
However, news.com.au can reveal that the letter writer had trained at the (now closed) Royal Newcastle Hospital, but returned to Narrabri where her father, a stockman, and mother lived on a cattle property.
"The matron asked me to go on staff at Narrabri Hospital, and I was three years working there in the operating theatre and trying to get away," she said.
She travelled overseas and then returned to nurse her father as he was dying of cancer in the late 1960s.
The young woman then married a neighbouring farmer, although the couple later divorced. She travelled to Hawaii where she lived for five years before returning to Australia and her nursing career.
She worked as a private nurse to the elderly and later became the Scots College Private School nurse, eventually retiring to the Hunter Valley where she lives today.
The lady told news.com.au she had been diagnosed late in life by a Christian doctor as being bipolar, and had then been cured and become a born-again Christian.
"I have been baptised by the Holy Spirit," she said. "You have to get your life in order and I was going through some things and I thought I had better put this right.
"If you have stolen or misplaced something the Bible says you have to restore four times so I felt caps would cost $3 or $4 and so I multiplied that."