POLICE are hunting thieves who broke in to a house and stole more than £10,000 of loose change hoarded in bottles.
John Benzie, 64, had been collecting the coins for around 20 years, emptying any loose change into the dozens of gallon bottles scattered around his house each time he broke a note.
But thieves broke into his house, near the Victoria Hotel which he runs in Forres, Moray, on Friday and escaped with “a five figure sum” as they took his entire collection.
Grampian Police said the crime was “highly unusual” as the thieves left everything else and took only the bottles of change.
Most of them were full and officers believe a car would have been needed to transport the haul.
Mr Benzie's sister, Marlene Ross, who also works in the hotel, said her brother, had been hoarding the coins over many years.
She said: “He is a bit of a hoarder and had collected the money over a period of around 15 to 20 years.
“I can't even begin to guess how many bottles there were full of coins but there would have been thousands of pounds' worth anyway.
“There were dozens of bottles and most of them were full. Any loose change he had would go in them.
“If he went to the shop for a paper or some bread and break a note he would put whatever was left over in the bottles.”
The theft comes after figures released last year showed more than £5.6 billion in cash is stashed away in the UK's homes, largely unprotected.
One in 10 people said they believed their money was safer tucked under mattresses and in jam jars than in a bank, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) survey showed.
But the FSCS warned even the top insurance policies only cover people for up to around £1,000 in cash.
Excluding the contents of their wallets, people typically keep £218 at home, while around one in 33 people has more than £1,000 squirreled away in their house, the survey found.
Officers investigating the theft urged banks and businesses in the Forres area to look out for people trying to cash in the coins.
Brian Milne, the investigating officer, added: “This is a most unusual crime for the town which was carried out on a busy thoroughfare.
“Any local businesses or banks, who may be suspicious of persons trying to change or deposit large quantities of coinage, are asked to contact Grampian police.”
A force spokeswoman said it was possible the thief or thieves knew the coins were in the house, but added that police were “investigating all lines of inquiry".
“I haven't heard of another incident like it, and certainly never coins of such value - it's an unusually high sum in mid-five figures,” she said.
"There were several bottles containing various denominations of coins.”
Police are also checking CCTV footage from the area after a witness reported seeing a man with a light-coloured car near the house beside the Victoria Hotel on Nairn Road, between 7pm and 11.15pm on Friday.
He was described as white, slim build, approximately 5' 10" in height, aged in his 20s or 30s, with short dark hair, clean shaven, local accent and wearing a dark coloured waist length lightweight jacket.
Mr Benzie did not wish to comment.
Wesley Johnson Telegraph.co.uk