Am Bratach No. 305
March 2017

Unusual burglaries

A series of unusual burglaries took place in the Durness area on and around the night of February 7, involving a hotel, a boat, two vehicles, and at least one unoccupied property.

Among the first to discover the damage was Hugh Morrison, proprietor of the Smoo Cave Hotel in Durness. Mr Morrison’s wife Frances said that the burglars entered the building by bursting the locks, but that the break-in did not conform to usual patterns. The items taken included chalk for the pool cue, darts, packets of bar snacks and even two bottles of orange juice from the fridge. More obvious targets, such as alcohol from the hotel bar, were left almost untouched. Mrs Morrison said: “They just seemed to pick up the kitchen bin and fill it with random stuff, and leave a little trail to where they were staying, a bit like Hansel and Gretel”.

The alleged thieves were not in a hurry to leave the district. The same afternoon, a male and a female suspect were arrested in a bed-and-breakfast run by Mrs Morrison’s mother, just next door to the Smoo Cave Hotel. The pair had booked in the previous day but were still in the house when the police caught up with them.

The same couple have been connected to other incidents in the area, including damage to a boat and vehicle at Ard Neachie, Loch Eriboll, belonging to diver Stewart Wishart. Mr Wishart said that five of his car windows had been smashed, but that nothing was taken from inside. There was further damage to the boat, from which some diving equipment was taken and the contents of the cabin turned upside down. Mr Wishart confirmed that the stolen items had been found in the possession of the pair arrested in Durness. Although pleased to recover his property, the damage will take longer to put right. “We’ve got to make a new door and everything”, Mr Wishart said. “It’s just the inconvenience. It’s annoying more than anything else.”

Mr Wishart said that an uninhabited house at Ard Neachie, which belongs to the Eriboll Estate, also showed signs of recent damage, with stone flags in the kitchen floor having been lifted and holes made in the plaster walls. He suggested that it looked like the work of someone targeting copper pipes, which have a high value on the scrap market, although the house at Ard Neachie has no plumbed water supply.

Elsewhere, there were reports of a car broken into at Polla, Loch Eriboll, from which a satellite-navigation unit is said to have been stolen. Thomas MacDonell, factor for Anders Holch Povlsen's NW Sutherland estates, also confirmed that a holiday cottage belonging to Mr Povlsen suffered a recent break-in.

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland verified that “a 33-year-old man and 45-year-old woman from the Perthshire area were reported to the Procurator Fiscal in connection with thefts in the Durness area, including thefts from the Smoo Cave Hotel which were reported to police on Wednesday 8th February 2017”.

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