In a charming tale of human contrition, a visitor who stole a silver cigarette case from a National Trust property has returned the item after four years with a letter of apology.
A cigarette case dating from the 1950s was stolen in 2005 by an opportunist thief touring the Florence Court in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. But the culprit, who identified themselves only as “DL”, explained in a letter to the curator of the classical 18th-century mansion how the shame had become overwhelming.
“I am so appalled when I think of my outrageous behaviour and can only comfort myself slightly in the knowledge that I no longer feel the urge to take things that do not belong to me,” the thief wrote.
The light-fingered visitor added: “I realise how splendidly the National Trust engages in Ireland and England minding wonderful houses and properties so that they can be enjoyed and the last thing they need are people stealing items or causing any other kind of damage.”
The case features the initials DLC for David Lowry Cole, the 6th Earl of Enniskillen. Florence Court was his family’s ancestral home for generations.
Kim Chestnutt, the property manager of Florence Court, said he was “grateful to the person who has expressed remorse and returned this case”.
Frances Bailey, curator at Florence House said: “This is a wonderful thing to happen. Although the case isn’t worth much in monetary terms, it has great sentimental value and we’re delighted that this person has returned it.”
The cigarette case will be back on display when Florence Court re-opens in March 2010.
Lord Enniskillen gave the house to the National Trust in 1953, to secure its future. Two years later, a huge fire destroyed two thirds of the interior. It took several years for the building, including fine rococco decoration, to be restored to its former glory and in 1961, as the end to the work approached, Hurricane Debbie devastated the estate.
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