Australian schoolboys caught in $6000 shoplifting spree

Boys from a Melbourne single-sex Catholic school were caught red-faced and red-handed with $6000 worth of clothing and souvenirs on Saturday, after a Queenstown shoplifting spree.

A total of 16 pupils, aged from 14 to 17, part of a group of about 30 pupils on the last day of their school trip, roamed the central business district in packs and stole from at least seven stores.

Constable Dave Felstead, of Queenstown, yesterday said the teenagers stole various items, but mostly clothing from sports shops, between 2pm and 6pm.

Five boys, aged 14 and 15, entered the R&R Sport shop about noon on the busy Saturday and tried on ski jackets, sales assistant Kate Long told the Otago Daily Times last night.

The group departed, then returned with three more boys, most of whom were wearing backpacks, about 5pm.

The "energetic and edgy" boys entered changing rooms with ski garments, which raised staff suspicions, Miss Long said.

When she challenged the group, some of the boys ran off, but were later found with their teachers waiting for a bus.

Miss Long and teachers from the school searched bags belonging to the party and recovered a variety of stolen ski jackets, other garments and souvenirs.

Most of the R&R Sport garments were damaged when boys tore off the security tags, Miss Long said.

"This is when we discussed [calling the] police, or payment [for the stolen goods]."

Miss Long said the teachers were "helpful and dealt with it extremely well".

The teachers promptly paid for the damaged garments and made the pupils call their parents from outside R&R Sport.

"Some of the boys were in tears," Miss Long said.

A Queenstown police officer returned recovered stolen goods to businesses yesterday.

Other retailers hit in the spree included Outside Sports and 45 South.

The offending pupils had been reprimanded by teachers who accompanied the school trip and were expected to receive further punishment after arriving back in Melbourne yesterday.

The group had been staying at the Goldridge Resort.

The boys were from Xavier College, is a boys' Jesuit school and one of Melbourne's most elite Catholic colleges. Its fees are about  $18,000 a year.

The school has attracted negative publicity in the past, including one incident in 2008 in which the entire Year 12 group was suspended when end-of-year antics led to one student being taken to hospital amid public complaints of students' drunken, violent behaviour.


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