Amber worth £750 stolen from tourist caves

A piece of amber worth an estimated £750 has been taken from a tourist attraction during a fossil-digging experience for children.

The gemstone, which is about 40 million years old, went missing from the event at Stump Cross Caverns, near Pateley Bridge, on Saturday.

Owner Lisa Bowerman said she had contacted the parents of children who attended to ask them to "check their kids' pockets", but no-one had come forward.

She said the Baltic amber was "palm-sized" and had a fly trapped inside, which made it more valuable.

Fossil digs are held regularly at the caverns, which lie beneath the Yorkshire Dales, where artefacts are planted for young participants to find.

"We do a fossil dig and we tend to take in quite a lot of really expensive, interesting, unique fossils," Ms Bowerman said.

"I like the children to hold them, to touch them and to see them, and it's normally things that you wouldn't get chance to see, things that would normally be behind glass."

She said there were 47 people at Saturday's session and they all handled the amber - which is essentially fossilised tree sap.

When one of her staff members went to collect the items at the end, the amber was gone.

Second theft

She added: "I was hoping that a little person had taken it thinking, 'Oh, this is lovely!' and then the parents would think, 'Oh my goodness, we didn't mean to do that!', so that it would just be an honest mistake really.

"Obviously the price tag is important, but to me it's the educational value because we show it to so many people and it's so important for me to let them get close up to things and learn hands on."

It is the second time a precious item has been taken from the caverns, after the fossilised tooth of an extinct shark was stolen last year.

The megalodon tooth was taken from a fossil dig event in February but the culprit, an elderly man, was caught on CCTV and when he realised, returned it.

Ms Bowerman said: "I think his conscience got the better of him as he didn't realise that we'd actually seen it on CCTV."

The man returned the tooth by throwing it from his car towards the caverns, and it broke in two.

Ms Bowerman said this time she may not get her precious item back.

"I think maybe somebody has just taken the opportunity to take it, because otherwise I would have expected it back by now," she said.

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