POLICE missed a “golden opportunity” to catch two crooks who stole antique coins worth £20,000 from Scotland’s most prestigious museum, a leading expert has claimed.
Dealer Hiram Brown said he was stunned when two men strolled into his Edinburgh shop and tried to sell him three gold renaissance coins – just a day after identical artefacts were swiped from the National Museum of Scotland.
Suspecting the coins were stolen, Hiram, owner of the Edinburgh Coin Shop and one of Scotland’s leading numismatists, asked the two men to return the following day – then immediately contacted the museum and police.
The 71-year-old said: “The two men were of Eastern European appearance – one of them was wearing a pin-striped suit and looked like a Mafia type, the second man was wearing an anorak.
“The guy in the suit pulled one of the coins from the inside pocket of his suit jacket, then delved into his trouser pockets and produced two more coins.
“He asked me how much I would pay for them, adding, ‘I know they’re worth a lot – I’ve looked them up on the internet’. Instantly I knew something dodgy was going on – those are not the kind of coins members of the public bring into my shop.
It’s a pity – the police missed out on a golden opportunity to catch the culprits.Hiram Brown
“I’ve been collecting coins for almost 60 years and I recognised two of the coins – a Mary Queen of Scots three-pound piece and a James VI sword and sceptre piece. Both were in perfect condition and highly valuable.”
The suspect customers did arrive at Hiram’s shop the next day, as did detectives, but their visits did not coincide.
Over the next few weeks Hiram managed to coax the suspects back a further six times – and tipped off police ahead of each visit. But Hiram said he was constantly “fobbed off” by detectives. The coins were stolen on September 2 last year. Two months later police released CCTV images of two men they were eager to trace.
Hiram added: “It upsets me that those coins are still out there, in the wrong hands.
“It’s a pity – the police missed out on a golden opportunity to catch the culprits.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Officers received information from the owner of a collectors store relating to the theft of valuable coins. A full statement was taken and this information has been extremely valuable in progressing the investigation.
“We have previously issued CCTV footage of individuals that we are keen to trace as part of this investigation.
“Any new information will be progressed if and when it’s received.” A spokeswoman for the National Museum of Scotland told the Evening News: “Due to the ongoing police investigation we are not able to comment.”