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Mystery of cash wads left in village since 2014 solved

The Guardian logo The Guardian 1/14/2020 Josh Halliday North of England correspondent

Two “good Samaritans” have identified themselves to police as the mystery benefactors who left tens of thousands of pounds on the streets of a tiny village in the hope it would be picked up by people in need.

The village of Blackhall Colliery, in County Durham, became the focus of global intrigue when detectives revealed that bundles of cash totalling at least £26,000 had been left anonymously scattered through the village, often on pavements, since 2014.

Everyone in the normally sleepy coastal community seemingly had a theory about who might be behind the apparent acts of kindness. Was it a lottery winner? A drug dealer seeking to get rid of their ill-gotten gains? Or was it someone elderly and possibly vulnerable?

On Monday, the mystery was solved. Detectives revealed that two people had come forward to say they were responsible for leaving the meticulously prepared bundles of £20 notes – each time amounting to about £2,000 – around Blackhall Colliery over the past six years.

The identity of the pair would remain a secret, Durham police said, as they had no desire to receive public praise for their generosity.

Both benefactors had recently received “unexpected windfalls” and wanted to give something back, the force said.

One of the good Samaritans told officers that they felt an “emotional connection” to the village after being helped by one of its residents and wanted to repay the kindness.

It was a mystery that had stumped detectives for years. Officers carried out numerous interviews, interrogated the local bank and post office staff and even tested the cash for fingerprints, but the circumstances surrounding the windfalls remained a riddle.

Police praised the honesty of 13 people who had found £2,000 bundles and handed them in to police. The money was returned to them when no one came forward to claim it.

Detectives have confirmed the money had been deliberately left in locations where it might be found by people in need, including pensioners and people who had fallen on hard times.

The anonymous duo, who worked together to leave the money, said they would often wait to make sure the cash was picked up but had never sought any thanks for their donations.

It is not known if they will continue to leave the bundles in future, but any that are found and handed in to police will continue to be returned to the finder.

DC John Forster, of Peterlee CID, said: “I’m really pleased we have an answer to this mystery and am glad we can now definitively rule out the money being linked to any crime or a vulnerable person.

“I would like to thank the good Samaritans for getting in touch and also to the honest residents of Blackhall who have continued to hand the money in. We would encourage anyone who may find another bundle to continue to hand it in. All the previous bundles have been returned to the finder.”

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