Break-ins to target jewellery dealers are not exactly uncommon these days, sadly, but there can’t be many involving home-made boats built to make a getaway.
When the Carlton Fine Art & Antique
Centre in West Yorkshire was raided overnight on August 21-22,
owner Malcolm Gray was astonished at how much planning and effort
had gone into it by the thieves (or thief) - including crossing the
Leeds and Liverpool Canal in their rudimentary craft
"Once they got out they used this boat made
out of three planks and polythene sheeting, like a coracle, to get
across the canal - they sunk that but we found it; you could see it
just under the water," said Malcolm, a former policeman.
The thieves took £40,000-50,000 of jewellery
from cabinets, largely made up of rings but with a few more
valuable items such as a diamond bracelet and a pendant worth about
They had obviously put a lot of thought into
the break-in at Salts Mill, Saltaire, seeing as the antiques centre
is on the second floor and to get to the window which they broke to
gain entry meant crossing the canal on a gantry using one ladder
from the side without a towpath, then a painter's ladder on the
other side, scrambling across a roof and climbing up air
conditioning units to squeeze through a tiny window.
"It was obviously all planned; they had been
in here because they'd sussed it out already," said Malcolm. "It
must have been a very slight person to have climbed through the 12
x 17in window. They also had to keep very quiet because there were
people working below our floor that night.
"There was only one set of footsteps on the
roof so it could be just one man but he cut himself on the window
so we have DNA traces. The results are not back yet, so we may
catch them, but this break-in was a shock at the very least - we
thought we were impregnable."
Malcolm used to run the Victoria Antique
Centre in Saltaire after leaving the police. He retired from there
in 2004 but opened the Carlton centre at Salts Mill when the
Victoria closed in 2005.
They are in the same 1853 building as the
gallery showing one of the largest collections of David Hockney's
work, and were based on the third floor but had to move when access
was needed to opera sets.
However, the second floor has a lot more
room and being in the same premises as the Hockney gallery
certainly helps in terms of footfall, Malcolm said.
- If you have any information about the theft contact West
Yorkshire police on the non-emergency number 101 and quote the
crime reference number of 13130347001. It was being investigated by
Shipley neighbourhood policing team.