Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

National Trust treasure returned

National Trust treasure returned

Whether it was the ghost of Christmas past, present or future, the season of goodwill has apparently had an affect on some County Fermanagh thieves.

Four years ago a silver cigarette case was stolen from Florence Court.

This week the case was returned, along with an anonymous letter of apology.

"I am so appalled when I think of my outrageous behaviour and can only comfort myself slightly in the knowledge that I no longer feel the urge to take things that do not belong to me," the thief wrote.

Dating from the 1950s, the cigarette case belonged to David Lowry Cole, the 6th Earl of Enniskillen, and was inscribed with his initials.

It was stolen by a visitor who was taking a tour around the 18th century mansion.

In his letter, the thief apologised for not having the courage to declare his name.

"I realise how splendidly the National Trust engages in Ireland and England minding wonderful houses and properties so that they can be enjoyed and the last thing they need are people stealing items or causing any other kind of damage," they added.

The cigarette case has been returned to its home at Florence Court
The cigarette case has been returned to its home at Florence Court

Acquired by the National Trust in 1953, Florence Court is the ancestral home of the Earls of Enniskillen.

Florence Court's property manager said he was delighted the case had been returned.

"The appeal of so many National Trust houses is that they are displayed as they were when owned by many generations of families, often with their belongings, enabling our visitors to enjoy seeing the rooms as they were originally lived in," said Jim Chestnutt.

"We are grateful to the person who has expressed remorse over this crime and has returned the case it to its rightful home."

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