By Douglas Walker
DOZY thieves thought they’d stolen a classic work of art only to make off with a worthless copy.
The bungling burglars assumed they’d struck gold when they discovered John Constable’s famous ‘The Hay Wain’ hanging from the wall of a house they’d broken in to.
However the painting was in fact a reprint and only worth a few pounds. Police have appealed for people to get in touch if offered the fake painting by the dopey thieves.
The robbers, who did take several items of antique furniture and jewellery, are believed to have made off in a car or van.
The break-in took place in broad daylight at a house in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, and detectives think it may have been specifically targeted because of its ‘valuable’ contents.
Police say the thieves had possibly been watching the house for some time and knew the occupants’ daily routine.
As well as taking some valuable Victorian artefacts, the robbers ripped down the famous print from the wall.
The oil canvas original is on display in the National Gallery in London and is valued at several million pounds.
It was finished by English painter Constable in 1821 and shows a horse drawn cart near Flatford Mill on the Rover Stour in Suffolk.
In 2005 it was voted the second greatest British painting by BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.
However the copy thieves got away with is one of numerous reprints available in gift shops across the country for just a few pounds. Police say the frame it was in was actually more valuable than the picture itself.
Other items stolen included a 2.5ft mahogany barometer, two mahogany lamp tables, a mahogany carriage clock, a green felt jewellery box and a gold bracelet.
The break-in took place on Monday between 11.15am and 12.50pm while the occupants were out.
A police spokesman said: “It is likely that whoever is responsible used a vehicle to transport the goods from the property, and we want anyone who was in the area at the time of the theft, and noticed anything suspicious, to contact police immediately.
“Similarly, anyone who suspects they may have been offered any of the stolen items for sale should also get in touch.”