Village sundial theft

STEPHEN PULLINGER Villagers hope police catch up with the thief in their midst - even if time does not.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Villagers hope police catch up with the thief in their midst - even if time does not.

For the residents of Ludham, on the Norfolk Broads, have been left bewildered by the sort of quirky crime that might have come straight from an episode of the rural police series Heartbeat.

For six years it had been a much-appreciated feature on The Bakers' Green, but earlier this week it suddenly came to villagers' notice that a unique aluminium and brass sundial, commissioned for the millennium, had vanished.

Adding a poignant twist to the plot, it was the sundial's 95-year-old designer Charles Houthuesen who made the discovery as he was driving past on his way to the shops.

Retired architectural model maker Mr Houthuesen, of Malthouse Lane, Ludham, said: “I was very upset when I saw that it was missing and immediately reported it to the parish clerk.

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“My first thought was that some hooligan was probably responsible, stealing something I had taken six months to design and make.”

He said the sundial incorporated a brass wheel inspired by the village's St Catherine's Church, for according to legend St Catherine had been burned to death on a wheel, hence the St Catherine's wheel firework.

Parish council vice-chairman Carol Willoughby said: “This is a unique item, specially designed by Mr Houthuesen for the millennium and unveiled by our MP Norman Lamb.

“Its theft begs the question, why would you want to take it?'. It belongs to the village, the money for it was raised by villagers, and it is just a very nice feature on the green.”

She said it was an audacious act as the thief first had to unscrew the sundial's nuts and washers, and it would have been heavy to carry off as it has a hexagonal oak base and is mounted on heavy slate.

Mrs Willoughby said: “Although the green is in the centre of the village it is not overlooked by houses. We have already asked local people whether they saw anything suspicious. We are working on the theory that is was probably done during the night.”

Police have narrowed down the theft of the sundial, the value of which has been put at £1,000, to between 2.30pm on Tuesday and 1.20pm on Wednesday.

Anyone with information is asked to contact PC William Nisbeitt at Stalham police station on 0845-4564567 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555111.

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