A THIEF has raided Roker Lighthouse and stolen a 100ft brass rail installed during the late 1800s.
In the latest of a growing trend of metal thefts, the ornamental bannister was taken from the lighthouse staircase.
Detectives fear it has now been sold on as scrap metal and are urging anyone with suspicions to help return a piece of the city’s history to its home.
Metal thefts across the area have reached an all-time high with Wearside thieves stopping at nothing to make a bit of cash. Memorial plaques and even the lightning conductor from Sunderland Minster have been recent targets.
Coun John Kelly, who has been instrumental in pushing for the restoration of the pier and the lighthouse, said: “It really is soul-destroying.
“I’m devastated because when you’re trying to restore something and people come along in and think it’s their right to just remove something from there it’s not right.
“I really want to see whoever has done this suffer the consequences.”
Restoration work was being carried out on the lighthouse when the theft is thought to have taken place and officers are investigating whether the thieves had access to a key to the lighthouse, which is a listed building.
Neighbourhood Inspector Tony Carty said: “The lighthouse is a part of Sunderland’s history and dates back to the late 1800s.
“The handrail was the original brass handrail installed when the lighthouse was first built and whoever has stolen it has taken a piece of the city’s history.
“The likelihood is whoever has stolen it has cut it up and tried to sell it on and we’re working with scrap yards to see if we can identify it.
“This is a deplorable act of vandalism to one of the city’s iconic landmarks and whoever is responsible needs to be held account for their actions.”
Coun Kelly said if it is not found, a replica handrail will be built but added nothing can replace the original.
“This kind of thing is impossible to replace. It’s historic metal work of an ornate nature and will in no way be the same as having the original there,” he said.
“It’s a piece of the city’s history and I’m lost as to why someone would even think of doing this.
“The annoying thing is if it was sold for scrap they won’t have got anywhere near as much as we will have to pay to get it replaced with it being a listed building.”
Heritage expert, Pam Tate, who owns Belmont Guesthouse in Roker, has also been devastated by the news.
She said: “I can’t believe anyone would do this. It’s a real shame because it’s over 100-years-old and is a part of the history.”
It is believed the theft took place some time between December 5 and 22 but was only reported to police on Tuesday.
Anyone with any information should phone 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.