OPPORTUNIST thieves have been branded “scum” after stealing a model lifeboat from the RNLI’s museum on Pier Road.
The museum highlights the history of the charity and is funded entirely by public donations, but on Tuesday afternoon a model of the Ilfracombe lifeboat Richard Silver Oliver was taken by what is believed to be a small group of organised thieves.
Former Whitby lifeboat coxwain and honorary curator Pete Thomson said: “To steal a lovely old model like that from a charity is the lowest of the low.
“This is an appeal to the public, please if anybody knows or has some idea please call us.
“The place was very busy and someone must have seen them but perhaps just thought it was staff.”
The model was probably made in 1937 when the actual lifeboat was launched and was to be donated back to Ilfracombe lifeboat by the previous owner, who lives in Wakefield.
It was in the care of Whitby lifeboat museum while transport was being organised.
Although it is an antique it would be worth less than £100 at an auction and Mr Thomson had recently repaired some minor breakages to the extremely delicate model.
Mr Thomson believes that as staff are backwards and forwards throughout the museum all day, at least two people must have been involved in the theft, with one acting as a lookout.
It appears they were almost caught in the act as a volunteer staff member spotted a plastic bag near the display case as she was passing through, but then when she returned both the bag and the model had vanished.
As it was hurriedly carried away in a plastic bag, further damage would have undoubtedly been caused to the model.
“I repaired it last week as there was a little bit of damage, not thinking that someone would take a liking to it,” said Mr Thomson.
“I thought I would bring it down so people can look at it before it’s taken away.
“I’m convinced that they’re fairly young as middle-aged people know about the work the RNLI does, so if they want to bring it back then I will forget it.
“All these models are donated by members of the public and the annoying thing is we’re trying to show a whole picture of the RNLI so people will donate money to keep the service going and these opportunists have come along and nicked it to try and sell it for a few quid.
As the museum is maintained using public donations given to the RNLI, Mr Thomson does not feel that CCTV would be an appropriate use of funds that are intended to help save lives at sea.
Appeals for information were posted on the Gazette’s Facebook and Twitter pages and many people were outraged to learn of the theft, with one person branding the perpetrators as “scum”.