Police send officer to Canna over honesty box theft

The island of Canna. Picture: PA
The island of Canna. Picture: PA
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POLICE have now sent an officer to Canna to investigate what is a crimewave for the Hebridean isle.

Police Scotland confirmed today that an officer from Mallaig on the mainland travelled to the isle of Canna on Wednesday.

I’ve had an affinity with the folks of Scotland for decades, ever since I saw the movie. I’ve probably seen it 25 times. I fell in love with the characters and the honest Scottish folk.

Jeffrey Rothbart

Initially police said at first they would not be sending an officer to investigate Canna’s first two thefts in decades. Instead they would conduct inquiries by telephone.

“Circumstances have changed. He has gone there to reassure islanders and to make inquiries locally. Inquiries are continuing,” said a spokesman for Police Scotland.

The island of Canna had been rocked by its first crime of dishonesty for decades – with a raid on its only shop.

Thieves cleared the shelves of the store on Canna and made off with sweets, chocolate bars, coffee, biscuits, toiletries and batteries.

They even stole six hand-knitted wool hats made by shop manager Julie McCabe.

But now it has emerged that a second business has been ransacked at the same time between Friday and Saturday.

Hebridean Beauty at Canna Pier - which had only been open six weeks - had £20 stolen from an honesty box and products worth £120 thieved. The stolen items included bath oils, shower gel and body butter.

Both shops operated an honesty box where people wrote down their purchasers and left the money.

Colin Irvine, chairman of the Isle of Canna Development Trust - which runs Hebridean Beauty - said:”It has obviously all been done at the same time.

“It is definitely someone who has come on to the island. It was probably just an opportunist.

“An honesty box basis is the way things work here. It has always worked really well. I also run the guest house and we have not got the time to be down there all the time.

“It means sailors can go in and shop later in the day on the way back to their boats. It lets us get more sales that way.

“We don’t know what to do about it. We are thinking about putting CCTV in. This has spoiled things a little bit for people.”

The island normally has a crime rate of zero and has no police station or even a special constable.

The community shop, which sells gifts, crafts and groceries, is also owned by the Isle of Canna Community Development Trust and is mainly run by volunteers.

It is left open round the clock so that sailors, fishermen and kayakers can use the free wi-fi and help themselves to a cup of tea or coffee.

Fundraiser

A big-hearted American is raising cash for Canna islanders struck by a raid on their “honesty” shop.

Jeffrey Rothbart, who lives in a small town two hours west of Chicago, has already raised enough money to replace goods stolen on the Isle of Canna last week.

The 55-year old, whose love for Scotland was inspired by a 1940s movie he has seen 25 times, has raised £325 in just 24 hours.

His online fundraising page, on the website Gofundme, aims to raise $5000 - just over £3000.

The former realtor was born and bred in America and has never visited Canna.

His belief in the honesty of Scots began in his twenties, when he saw the 1945 movie “I know where I’m going”.

The film follows an English woman set to marry a wealthy industrialist but instead falling in love with the Hebridean islands and their people.

Last night, Mr Rothbart said: “I’ve had an affinity with the folks of Scotland for decades, ever since I saw the movie.

“I’ve probably seen it 25 times. I fell in love with the characters and the honest Scottish folk.

“It has a nice saying, the girl calls the town folk poor and the man replies “They’re not poor, they just don’t have any money. I’ve always appreciated that.

“I just think that most of all the good, honourable hard working people of Canna deserved better.

“When I read about them I just felt they deserved a good Scottish turn.”

Honesty box

People who buy groceries make a note of what they have taken in a book and leave the money in an honesty box.

Islanders have been left dismayed by the theft.

The last time a crime of dishonesty was committed on Canna is believed to have been in the 1960s, when a carved wooden plate was stolen from the Rhu Church. It was never recovered and the case was never solved.

However in 2009 the isle was rocked when its former special constable was arrested.

Patrick MacKinnon became an outcast after sex attacks on women on the island and because of his heavy drinking.

Police swooped after using the Mallaig lifeboat to travel to the island, which, at the time, had a population of 11 adults and seven children

The following year the body of 49-year-old Patrick MacKinnon was discovered hanging at a house in Braemore Place, Fort William.

A spokesman for Police Scotland confirmed they were investigating the thefts.

He added: “Officers are looking to speak to members of the public and those on board fishing vessels which were moored around Canna pier around the time of the incident.

“If anyone has any information about the incident they are encouraged to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800555111.”