By Jeremy McDermott, Latin America Correspondent, in Bogota
A BURGLAR who tried to break into a convent to steal precious artefacts thought it was going to be all to easy until he was shot dead by two elderly nuns.
The Sanctuary of the Virgin of Miracles convent had already been robbed nine times, and last week the cloistered nuns organised a sentry roster, ensuring that two of their community of 28 were on duty every night.
They had appealed for official protection, but the local army unit responded by lending the convent a handgun to scare off wouldbe robbers. So when Sisters Elva Maria Silva, 56 and Luz Adelia Barragan Jimenez, 55, heard a strange noise in one of the corridors, they fired six warning shots from the Smith & Wesson.
Two of the warning shots caught the thief in the face and the hand. He fell to the ground as the nuns fled to call the police.
The robber died hours later in a hospital in Tunja, north of Bogota.
"What happened was a deplorable accident," Archbishop Luis Augusto Castro told reporters, explaining that the nuns felt helpless and had asked the army brigade stationed in the region for a weapon.
The nuns appeared on national television weeping and bitterly regretting the incident, insisting they were praying every minute for the soul of the man they killed.
Police believe the thief was looking for the convent's priceless statue of the Miraculous Virgin, which has a crown and sceptre of solid gold.
The nuns had a weapons permit and will not face charges, their lawyer, Gilberto Rendon, said.