Police are hunting a brazen vandal who damaged the nose of Edinburgh’s iconic Greyfriars Bobby statue in the dead of night.
Shocked workers fear abrasives or even a blowtorch may have been used on his snout to undo repair work carried out just this week.
The attack on the Skye Terrier has stunned residents and baffled police given it was carried out in a busy area under the full glare of several CCTV cameras.
Pc Nick Davies of Police Scotland said: “This crime is as unusual as it is disappointing to observe. At first it was believed the repair had not adhered correctly to the
monument. However, we are now treating this as an act of vandalism after discovering that an abrasive has been used to remove the material from the repaired area.”
City bosses had paid specialists £400 to retouch the nose of the famous black dog, who sits proudly on George IV Bridge, after an online campaign highlighted how the practice of rubbing it for luck was wearing the colour off.
Police now hope CCTV will aid their efforts to identify the phantom pooch polisher.
Brian Caster, of bronze sculpture conservation and restoration company Powderhall Bronze, who carried out the restoration work, is aghast at the attack. He was immediately in “no doubt” the statue had been tampered with – as the re-patinate and waxing procedure he carried out should have lasted decades.
He said: “Someone has obviously gone and given it a rub with something abrasive like a scourer or wire brush. It would take years, decades even, for the nose to be worn away again by people touching it.
“It won’t have taken someone much effort with a scouring pad, to be honest.”
Brian returned and reworked the statue free of charge yesterday. However, the council’s restoration attempts have divided opinion among local residents.
Taz Newis, 44, who works at nearby Deadhead Comics, said: “It was just a publicity stunt, it’s a load of nonsense. They should sort out the road instead of that bloody dog’s nose.
He added: “It’s had a negative effect – people are rubbing it more now.”
Hospital research technician Sarah Lempriere echoed this, saying: “I think he looks nicer with the gold nose.
“People have interacted with it. I wouldn’t bother doing it again now we know it comes off in a few days.
The Evening News reported last month how concerned residents had started a Facebook page titled Stop People Rubbing Greyfriars Bobby’s Nose It is NOT a Tradition, which quickly gained more than 600 supporters.
Becky Thomson, who started the Facebook campaign, said: “I think that with anything that gains publicity the way that this has blown up, you’ll have those who react differently.
“This is just mischief and I’m now considering stopping the Facebook page as it’s out of my hands now the council and police are involved.
“I would hope it all now settles down and the statue is left in its restored condition.”
Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture and sport convener, said the statue attackers should be ashamed of themselves.
He said: “The work carried out should have lasted for a number of years and it is highly unlikely that it would have worn away naturally in such a short space of time.”
The attack also ignited social media, with many branding it “sacrilege” and an attack on the whole of Edinburgh.