A beekeeper who was left devastated after yobs smashed up his hives has been overjoyed by the sweetness response of strangers.
Apiarist Steve Cattanach says he has been "blown away” by the public’s kindness after a police appeal prompted a national fundraising drive which went viral.
Northumbria Police issued an appeal for information in a bid to trace those responsible, and the incident captured the imagination of Good Samaritan Nina Goudie.
Moved by Steve's anguish, the 33-year-old, of South Shields, set up a crowdfunding page to try to raise a small sum to cover the cost of some replacement hives.
But what followed was extraordinary as more than 280 well-wishers from across the UK put their hands in their pockets to raise more than £3,000 for the bee enthusiast.
“I’m just blown away by the response. It’s nice to know there are so many good people out there,” said 60-year-old Steve.
“I want to thank everyone. It’s been phenomenal.
"I’m going to buy some new hives to replace those that were destroyed, and then put another up at Westoe Crown Community Hub.
“I want to also keep going into schools, like I have for the last six or seven years, to teach children about the importance of bees.
"Albert Einstein said that if bees didn’t exist then man would only have four years to live – hopefully I can pass on my knowledge to inspire future beekeepers.”
Nina, a student nurse at South Tyneside District Hospital, was preparing to go to the cinema when she stumbled across the police appeal for information on social media.
“I saw it on Northumbria Police’s Facebook page and I thought it was really sad,” she said.
“It was just mindless, such a shame – so I wanted to do something to help.
“I asked if anybody had organised a donation page, as I thought it would be a nice idea to raise a bit of money to help Steve buy some replacement hives.
"Everyone seemed to think it would be a good idea, but I kept hitting refresh and nobody had set anything up.
“So that’s when I just decided to go for it.
"I set it up and then went into the cinema, and when I got out, I had a look and it had already gone past £600.
“I was amazed as the total continued to grow, and I’m just so pleased for Steve.
"What he does is fascinating and very educational. He gives up his time for others – now hopefully this money can help him build some new hives and continue his work in local schools.”
She continued: “I didn’t know Steve at all, and I was initially worried about how I’d get all this money to him.
"But I tracked down his wife on Facebook, and now I’ve made a couple of friends for life.
“It’s funny how it’s worked out and I’m so thankful to everyone that donated to help make a positive out of what happened.”
Reunited with Nina at his home in South Shields this week, Steve added: “I’m so grateful to Nina for doing what she did. I didn’t even think it was possible – it’s an incredibly kind thing that she did.
“A huge thank you to everyone – Nina, the police, and especially the public – you have blown me away.”
Sergeant Claire Fada and Pc Nicola Bute, have also kept in regular contact with Steve and have been touched by the overwhelming response.
“This was an incredibly upsetting crime which caused Steve a massive amount of heartache and frustration,” Sgt Fada said.
“So it’s fantastic to see the support that he has received from across the country.
"We look forward to continue seeing Steve at community events and in local schools, offering his expertise and passion for beekeeping.
“We would ask anyone who has any information about the original offence to contact police on 101 quoting reference 578 270518 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Steve's work can be followed via Ivy’s Bees on Facebook.