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The missing diamonds, the homeless hero and a media-spun Christmas fable

by Greg Klein | December 27, 2017

This small Vancouver Island city’s best known for its eponymous Nanaimo bars, known to Canadians not as biker-infested boozers but an exquisitely sweet confection believed to have originated with 19th-century Scottish coal mining families. Just in time for Christmas, some media turned the local tale of a missing diamond ring into a concoction just as rich.

Missing diamonds, a homeless hero and a media-spun Christmas fable

An overly sweet Nanaimo concoction.
(Photo: Tourism Nanaimo)

An out-of-town visitor lost the ring, which was sitting in her change purse, when she accidentally scooped it up with some money that she offered a street guy. On realizing what happened, she made a public appeal for the ring’s return, emphasizing that the guy received it purely by accident. The Nanaimo News Bulletin reported that in a straightforward December 16 story.

On December 18 in downtown Nanaimo I was approached by a stranger who I later recognized from media photos as the guy who eventually found the ring’s recipient, obtained the missing item and returned it to the owner. The stranger asked me to make a phone call for him. I replied that I don’t have a cell phone. Nevertheless he tagged along with me, talking semi-coherently about a missing diamond ring and a TV reporter named Skye. At one point he blurted out that he’d been “clean for a day.”

I asked him if he knew the ring’s whereabouts. He shouted, “I do now!” Referring to the News Bulletin story, I said the owner asked that it be turned in to the Salvation Army. He replied, “OH YEAH?” and suddenly ran off.

The Sally Ann was a block and a half in another direction.

Later that day he met up with CHEK TV and the ring’s owner. Maybe he was surprised by the fruits of his televised altruism.

They included a “generous cash reward” from the owner, followed by other gifts that poured in after CHEK broadcast its emotively condescending account. A CHEK follow-up report encouraged more donations to be dropped off at a downtown business.

Then Canadian Press took up the story, which was relayed in a dozen or more media in Canada and internationally.

But between the CHEK broadcast and the nearly viral CP account, the News Bulletin ran another story, again avoiding emotionalism. In its straightforward manner the paper also noted that two of the ring’s diamonds “had apparently been pried from their settings and were missing.”

That detail wasn’t mentioned by the CHEK reporter who witnessed the ring’s return. CP euphemistically referred to the missing stones as “some damage to the jewelry.”

Not to worry, a jeweller—an unnamed jeweller who contacted the owner directly, not through the media—has offered to replace the gems and repair the ring for free.

For all that, the owner’s goodwill knows no bounds. She wants to track down the ring’s earlier recipient to give him a cash reward too. She spent Christmas Eve handing out money to street people and started a GoFundMe campaign to help the ring returner move out of his friend’s place and into a home of his own—“and maybe even get him a puppy to love.”

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