A THIEF who stole “irreplaceable” football medals from Tynecastle Stadium sneaked through a door left open during maintenance work at the ground, it emerged today.
Four medals, including a pair handed to league champion players in the 19th century, were snatched from a display cabinet along with a gold pocket watch.
Club bosses suspect the thief may have been inside the stadium on a previous occasion to carry out a recce – as he or she were able to quickly locate and force open the cabinet without being spotted.
Desperate club officials today appealed for the thief to hand back the priceless loot.
A club spokesman said: “There is a lot of maintenance work going on at the stadium just now and someone has taken advantage of that to get inside.
“The display case is not something you would just come across so we believe it’s likely that this person has been in the stadium before.
“We don’t think they just got lucky. Someone wandering around the stadium looking for anything to steal would have been spotted by staff.”
The theft was noticed by a glass cleaner who raised the alarm. The spokesman said that the club viewed the stolen items as “irreplaceable”.
He added: “We’re not bothered how, as long they come back. If they get dropped off on the doorstep in a plastic bag then that’s fine.
“A lot of these were family heirlooms which were kindly donated to the club. We can’t put a value on them but to us they are priceless.”
Police want to trace a “suspicious-looking man” spotted by workers at the stadium around the time of the heist.
He is white, 40 to 45-years-old, 5ft 9in, medium build, has short ginger hair, was clean-shaven, and was wearing a dark bomber jacket and dark trousers.
The stolen items were a Scottish Football League Championship Winners’ medal from 1896-1897, won by James Mirk; a Scottish Football League Championship Winners’ medal from 1894-1895, won by George Scott; a Victory Cup Final runners-up medal from 1919, awarded to Bob Mercer; and a Victory medal awarded posthumously to Harry Wattie, who was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
The other stolen item was a gold pocket watch.
Inspector David Hynd, from Police Scotland, said: “These medals have significant historic value, not just to Heart of Midlothian FC but to the city of Edinburgh.”