Woman in ‘white coat and white hat’ behind Hartlepool Art Gallery heist

The Hartlepool Christmas Lights switch on in Church Square

The Hartlepool Christmas Lights switch on in Church Square

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A BRAZEN thief stole hundreds of pounds of goods from an art gallery while a Coronation Street star was stood just feet away meeting and greeting hundreds of fans.

The thief struck during Hartlepool’s Christmas lights switch-on – performed by actor Jack P Shepherd who plays David Platt in the hit ITV soap – by swiping a jewellery box and a clock from Hartlepool Art Gallery, in Church Square.

Jack had switched on the illuminations before going into the gallery to carry out a ‘meet and greet’ session with residents of the town when the thief, believed to be a woman, struck.

As a huge queue formed to meet the celebrity, the criminal went over to a stand and pocketed the valuable items, worth £100 each, before disappearing into the crowds.

A member of the public informed a worker at the gallery, and police were informed the following morning.

Jean Hogg, a cultural information officer for the Hartlepool Borough Council-run gallery, was there on the night and said organisers were left “disappointed” with the incident.

Jean, who started work at the gallery 18 years ago, told the Mail: “Jack P Shepherd from Coronation Street was doing the light switch on outside the art gallery and the atmosphere was brilliant.

“He came in to meet and greet the fans just after 6pm and a big queue formed and it was really busy.

“A crowd gathered around a stand in the centre of the gallery where we have a display of jewellery boxes and clocks, and a member of the public said she saw someone stealing a jewellery box.

“She told us that it was a woman wearing a white coat and a white hat.

“The next morning we realised the clock had gone missing as well.”

Jean added: “It put a dampner on the night and we were all very disappointed.

“We phoned the police the next morning because it was such a lovely evening that we didn’t want the police turning up.

“My colleague was looking about on the night seeing if he could see anyone matching that description but he had no luck.

“If anyone knows anything about this then we’d really like them to ring the police.

“We’ve had the odd card stolen over the years but nothing of value like this.”

Police officers investigating the theft hope to speak to the person who reported the incident to staff on Wednesday evening, or any other witnesses.

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “Police are appealing for information after jewellery was stolen from Hartlepool Art Gallery after the town’s Christmas lights switch on event.

“A soap opera celebrity was doing a meet and greet session in the art gallery, when a woman, described as wearing a white coat and white hat was seen to steal a jewellery box from a display.”

Peole with information should contact Pc Holly Angus on the non-emergency number 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.