THE boss of a South Tyneside arts venue has told of his sadness after thieves preyed on a visiting orchestra.
The European Orchestra Ensemble were at the Customs House in South Shields on Saturday night to perform the Viennese Strauss Gala.
But at 4.45pm, just a couple of hours before the show, a cello and violin were taken from the Mill Dam venue by a sneak thief.
The suspect, who was caught on CCTV, is described as white, and wearing a black three-quarter hooded coat, grey tracksuit bottoms with a black stripe and white trainers.
The violin is a rare Lorenz Neudorf 1878. It was in a black, hard, long case with a sky blue interior. It also has two Fretschner bows.
The Muller cello was inside a black material case and also has a bow.
Customs House executive director Ray Spencer was shocked someone would steal the instruments from the six-piece Bulgarian band.
He said: “I’m deeply saddened that these two musicians who give so much joy to people around the world should visit our theatre and be the victim of a sneak thief.
“These are more than just a cello and violin to these musicians.
“They are their tools of the trade, and more than that, to them they are their babies, and without them they cannot continue their career.
“So please, if you have any information regarding this incident, contact Northumbria Police and help reunite these musicians with their beloved instruments.”
Neighbourhood Inspector Peter Sutton said: “These are two very distinctive musical instruments, and someone carrying them in their cases about the time of the burglary would have been noticeable.
“I’d urge any one who saw the person to come forward.
“Anyone who has been offered the instruments for sale should also contact us, including any second-hand dealers.
“We hope to be able to reunite the group with their instruments, so this doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the rest of their UK tour.”
The orchestra managed to perform at the Customs House and their tour continues.
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, extension 69191 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.