ART exhibition organisers have spoken of their heartbreak after £15,000 of paintings and sculptures were stolen in one night.
Burglars broke in to the stately home at Rookesbury Park Manor, Wickham and stole 12 paintings and nine sculptures that were due to be part of a wildlife art exhibition.
The event organisers have put out a desperate appeal for people to look out for any unusual wildlife art in the hope of catching the culprits or reclaiming some of the missing work.
The free exhibition, the Southern Nature Art show, opened today at Rookesbury Park Manor and 95 artists are displaying their work at the show this weekend.
However, its organisers were left heartbroken yesterday when they realised that selected pieces of artwork had been stolen between 10.30pm on Wednesday and 7.50am yesterday morning.
Caroline Pinnells, one of the organisers, said: ‘These artists have put their heart and soul into this work and some heartless person has gone and taken it.’
It is a bit of a shock but it is even worse for the people running the show. It is just awful.Manager of Rookesbury Park Manor Heather Aitkenhead
Manager of the manor Heather Aitkenhead said: ‘We have never had anything like this happen before.
‘It is a bit of a shock but it is even worse for the people running the show. It is just awful.’
The organisers – Mrs Pinnells, Nick Barker and his daughter Alannah – were all sleeping in a motorhome at the front of the house when the break-in happened but they did not hear anything.
Mrs Pinnells said: ‘It has been so heartbreaking.
‘I want this information out there so the people who took these items know that we have called the police.
‘Everyone has been so supportive but people need to be aware and keep their eye out and call the police if they see anything that could have come from the exhibition.’
The collection of stolen paintings include pictures of fish, swans, foxes, a grey wolf, a roebuck, elephants and polar bears, in a variety of styles, plus more.
The sculptures include elephants, hares, a cheetah, lemurs and hippos.
The pieces range from £95 up to £3,000 in value.
A police spokeswoman said: ‘The art, owned by nine artists, was being displayed as part of an exhibition.
‘It is believed that access was gained via ‘French-style’ doors to the side of the building.
‘Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101 quoting 44150297029.’