AN elderly couple were assaulted and held up at knife-point in a daylight robbery in their New Town home.
Professor William Donachie, 77, and his wife Dr Millicent Masters, 74, both former Edinburgh University lecturers, were left terrified after a man burst into their basement flat in Grosvenor Crescent.
Dr Masters answered the door to the thief, who told her he was carrying out stonework on a nearby property before forcing his way inside.
The thief grabbed a knife from their kitchen and threatened the couple before making off with cash and a mobile phone during the robbery, which took place at around 3.15pm on Monday.
Prof Donachie is a professor emeritus at the university, where he first lectured in 1958 after studying there, and retired as a professor of bacterial genetics in 2000.
Dr Masters worked at the Institute of Cell Biology at the university between 2002 and 2009, and is an honorary fellow at the department.
Ken Murray, 53, a fund manager who lives in Grosvenor Crescent, said he had spoken to the couple about their ordeal.
He said: “The lady answered the door to be greeted by this man then he’s pushed his way inside. Her husband heard her screaming for help and came downstairs. This man grabbed a kitchen knife and held it to her. Then her husband got the same treatment.
“It was all over in a matter of minutes. It’s terrible that this has happened to them.”
Uniformed police officers have been conducting patrols and door-to-door inquiries in the area, while detectives have been checking CCTV footage from nearby streets and businesses.
Detective Inspector Lyle Shaw said: “The couple were at home when there was a knock at the door. The wife answered it and the suspect told her he was doing stonework on another property. She told him she wasn’t interested in any work then he pushed her back and went inside.
“Her handbag was in the hall so it’s possible he may have seen that from the door. Her husband came in and he was pushed back into the kitchen along with his wife.
“The suspect picked up a knife from the kitchen and made demands for cash. The couple realised there was no scope to reason with this person, who had just upped the threat level by arming himself, so they’ve done the right thing and handed over the money. He also took a mobile phone.
“We’re asking for anyone who saw a man fitting his description in the area at that time to come forward.”
The suspect is described as being white, 6ft 1in to 6ft 3in tall, slim, with a large nose and short dark hair. He was wearing a dark blue hooded tracksuit top with white stripes down the sleeve, dark trousers and white trainers. He spoke with a local accent.
DI Shaw added: “This couple were understandably really shaken up by this.
“We’re also appealing to anyone who may have had this man call at their door. It may be that he tried other addresses and seized his opportunity at this home.”
Prof Donachie and Dr Masters did not want to comment on the incident.