NAB employees uncover secret in Sydney safety deposit box

The box had sat untouched in a bank for the past 30 years, but some detective work helped reunite the owner with the priceless contents.

A long forgotten safety deposit box has been uncovered in a Sydney bank safe with some priceless treasures.

NAB branch manager Katie Freeman discovered the old safety deposit box that had been abandoned for the past 30 years and inside were love letters written from a university student to her boyfriend.

She took to Google to track down the two lovers.

They belonged to a customer named Chris Beale, but despite many attempts to contact him over 30 years, NAB employees had no success.

It meant the contents of the box were legally classified as “repossessed” so Freeman and her colleagues had to work out what the box contained and what to do with the contents.

“We were really surprised when we looked inside,” said Freeman.

“We discovered more than 30 letters written long ago from a woman named Francesca in Sydney to Chris while he was travelling overseas. I thought how lovely it would be if we could at least return the letters to Chris.”

But Google didn’t offer up much, with the best clue that Beale may have once served on the board of an organisation in the United States.

Freeman reached out to the board and hit the jackpot as it turned out he was the mysterious man in the letters. He still lived in the US but had retired from the board, which passed on Freeman’s contact details.

The Australian man was then was asked a range of questions by Freeman to verify his identity, but he struggled to remember some key details.

“For example, I had no memory of my account number from such a long time ago, nor what might be in the box,” he said.

“So she switched the focus. She told me that the contents of the box were a collection of letters. That mystified me.

“She then told me that the letters seemed to be from a girlfriend. She assured me that none of the staff had read the letters since they were personal, but the name of the sender was on the envelopes and the letters were addressed to Chris Beale at various locations overseas.”

Beale said with that clue he immediately knew who the letters were from – his girlfriend of a year Francesca Macartney.

“During one long summer break from university, my father had offered my brother and me a round-the-world trip,” he said.

“It was a great opportunity, but my girlfriend and I hated the idea of being separated for so long. So, we promised to write to each other frequently.”

But their love story didn’t end there – four years later the couple got married and five days after the wedding they flew to the US, where they have lived ever since.

“Francesca Macartney Beale is now a lawyer and I’m in finance. We have two sons who were born in the US and have been to Australia many times,” he added.

“I don’t know how the branch manager tracked me down. Great detective work on her part.”

The letters have been couriered to Beale just in time for Valentine’s Day in the US.

“I plan to surprise my wife on Valentine’s Day with the news that we have the letters,” he said.

“Then we will start reading them again.”

Freeman said reuniting the couple with their love letters was one of the most memorable moments in her six years at NAB.

“I went to one of the local chocolate shops in Sydney, bought some chocolates for them and wrote a letter as well so there are a few extra surprises in there for them. I’m so excited for them to open the package,” she said.

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