Don't Take a Stradivarius to Pret A Manger

Even the most public places can be rife with thieves, as the theft of a $1.8 million Stradivarius violin in a London train station sandwich shop shows. But what are the most valuable, absurd items that have been left or stolen in public places?

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Even the most public places can be rife with thieves. A rare 300 year-old Stradivarius violin of violinist Min-Jin Kym — valued at £1.2 million pounds, or $1.8 million dollars — was stolen back in 2010 at a Pret a Manger sandwich shop, of all places. The instrument was finally recovered by police this morning, putting an end to a curious sandwich shop mystery, as The Guardian explained at the time:

Kym ... was reportedly on her way from London to Manchester when she nipped into a Pret a Manger near Euston station at around 8:30pm. She was eating with a friend, according to staff member Hafid Salah, who said the pair were "on computers and iPhones and not looking at their bags", when someone snuck away with Kym's black violin case. "She came up to me at the counter and said: 'Have you seen my bag? Call the police. Can you get the CCTV? You have to do something.'" Salah said. "She was really upset and panicking."

The Guardian piece also includes the classic British wry sense of humor: "'These items hold enormous sentimental and professional value,' her insurer said, making no comment on the quality of the sandwich," the article dryly reads. "Kym may have just traded a £1.2m Stradivarius for a mature cheddar and pickle sandwich." Oh, you Brits.

The story is a reminder to watch your belongings in public, but it does raise an important question: What are the most valuable items that have been left or stolen in public places?

1) Phoenix Diner bathroom

In 2009, a Phoenix woman accidentally flushed a $70,000, 7-carat diamond ring down the toilet at the Black Bear Diner. The "Diamond in the Roughage" (below) had to be retrieved by a poor plumber, but the ring's owner certainly didn't lack for the means to do so. "After a $250 cost to retile the bathroom and a $5,200 bill from Mr. Rooter, the couple tipped each plumber an extra $400 and an employee of the diner $200 for staying late," an article in The Arizona Republic reads.

2) An entire beach

Jamaican officials were surprised in the least when they noticed that their beach was missing. Somehow, thieves believed to be from the large hotel and tourism industry stole 500 truck-loads of sand without being noticed. That, or there was a police cover-up, as some Jamaicans argued.

3) A Russian bridge

In the middle of a 2008 night, thieves stole a bridge in Khabarovsk, Russia weighing 200 thousand kilograms for scrap metal. "Local workers arrived at the bridge in the morning to discover that the only direct route to work had disappeared," a Daily Mail article reads. Below, a picture of the aftermath of the bridge.

4) Giant inflatable ape 

A 350-pound inflatable blue gorilla was stolen from the roof of a California car dealership despite being tied down with strong cables. The ape, named "Mr. Pickles," was later found on the roof of a local high school — apparently the case of a high school prank gone absolutely right.

5) Nutella spread

Students at Columbia University have a sweet tooth, apparently, as the dining hall's Nutella went through almost $5,000 a week on the chocolaty hazelnut spread. “Students have been filling cups of Nutella to-go in Ferris Booth Commons and taking the full jars out," Vicki Dunn, executive director of Dining Services, wrote in an email to Columbia Daily Spectator. Hey, the on-the-go thief has to eat, too.

(Photo sources: Mike Roberts/The Arizona Republic, Daily Mail)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.