Robbers in the English city of Liverpool have stolen the bones of a saint. But they may have got away with less than they thought.
The bones of St Therese of Lisieux are on tour in the UK. They arrived in Liverpool two days ago following sell-out appearances in Bristol, Walsingham, Tottenham and Little Snoring. The Catholic faithful have flocked to see and pray to the relics. In Liverpool, lines began forming nearly half-an-hour before the doors opened, with possibly dozens of worshippers - mostly the old and infirm - waiting patiently for a miracle.
Now they are going to be disappointed.
"It's the worst moment of my life," said Mrs Edna O'Savage, who was hoping the saint's remains might cure her of some particularly difficult piles. "I'd hoped this would be an end to my suffering. Now it's back to the rubber ring. I hope they catch the bastards who did this and string them up."
Angry pilgrims have criticized security arrangements at the church.
"When the bones were displayed at Liverpool Cathedral, they were in a locked ossuary inside a clear case made of bullet-proof Perspex," explained freelance sexton Albert Unctuous. "I'm not sure why they thought anyone would shoot her, though. I mean, she's dead, isn't she?"
Then the relics were moved for a brief appearance at the Blessed Church of the Repentent Scouser in Toxteth, a notoriously crime-ridden area of the city.
"This place is full of scallies," said Unctuous. ['Scally' or 'scallywag' are believed to be local terms relating to people with criminal tendencies — ed]. "Those arseholes [assholes] will nick [steal] anything."
The bones were removed from the ossuary and placed on a bed of specially blessed shell suits. An hour later, they were gone.
But the loss may not be as great as it seems.
According to US-based conspiracy theorist and militia leader, William H Carpenter, they might not have been the saint's bones at all.
"I saw the bones years ago, before they became popular," said Carpenter, who was visiting Liverpool to research recent UFO sightings in the city. "And I saw them again in the Cathedral here. They weren't the same bones."
The relics on tour in the UK are too small and too fresh, he said. "St Therese died in the 19th century," said Carpenter. "Those bones looked like they were scraped clean last week. If you ask me, they belong to a puppy."
So where are the real bones?
"These religious relics have power," said Carpenter. "Remember that scene from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'? My sources - who I obviously can't name - tell me the real bones of St Therese are in the hands of a government. I can't say which one and what they're using them for. But trust me, no good will come of this."