A historic bell has been stolen from an Aberdeenshire cemetery as cases of metal theft continue to rise across the country.
The theft of the church bell near Huntly is thought to be the latest incidence of criminals cashing in on the soaring prices of scrap metal, a practice which costs the economy millions each year.
The church bell taken from the secluded Ythanwells graveyard was gifted to the community in the 19th century.
James Wood was visiting his parents’ grave at the cemetery when he discovered the bell was missing.
He said: “[I’m] gutted. I’m really angry that somebody had the nerve to come in and take it out of this place.”
Local woman Margaret Anderson, whose father is buried at the cemetery, added: “[I’m] shocked again at how cruel [and] selfish some people can be. I’m livid – fuming.”
Last year a bell went missing in a neighbouring parish and there have been similar reports up and down the country. Grampian Police are investigating.
In June, one of the country's oldest brass bands had its instruments stolen, while in Dundee £60,000 worth of copper was snatched from a school.
Andy Willox, from the Federation of Small Business, said: “It seems to be becoming more and more common. Of course the price of metal is making it more beneficial to these metal thieves.
“It has got to be stopped. Not only does it affect our businesses, with farmers and a lot of other people affected, but it affects local authorities. It’s costly at times and [there’s] health and safety of course with manhole covers and everything else that can be stolen.”
New legislation has been proposed to better regulate the scrap metal industry but for the residents of Ythanwells, it may not be enough to stop their little piece of history from being lost forever.