Lobsterman steamed up about one that got away

The world was almost Bernard Warner's lobster (as Bobby Robson, the former England manager, once famously said, mixing up his seafood) but then he sold it.

The crustacean that is. Apparently pale and old, it turned out to be almost worth its weight in gold.

For by the time Mr Warner realised that the oversized, grey lobster fished out of the sea was in fact a rare albino, worth more than pounds 20,000, it was too late.

He was on holiday in Madeira and the priceless crustacean had been boiled and eaten by some unsuspecting diner.

Mr Warner, 52, from Doncaster, south Yorkshire, had acquired the off- white specimen in a routine delivery from the East Coast. It was two and half times the size of an average lobster, weighed between two and three pounds, compared to the usual one pound, and was covered in barnacles. "The comments at the time were: `We'll never sell that, because it's too big,'" he recalled yesterday.

Nevertheless, he sent it on to Mrs B's Fish Emporium in Doncaster, along with a batch of pink lobsters. A week later, in a restaurant in Madeira, he woke up to the true value of the rogue specimen. "We were passing comment on the price of a lobster," recalled Mr Warner, who has worked in the family business, Warner's Fish Merchants Ltd, for the past 40 years. "It was about pounds 40 and we said: `We'd never get that in Doncaster.' The manager said: `What about this one?' and passed us an article about a similar looking albino lobster recently found in America."

The fraught fishmonger sped to the telephone and rang his sister-in-law, Brenda, at Mrs B's. She was "quite proud" of the fact that she had sold the large lobster, he said. "I couldn't believe it. In all my time as a fishmonger I've never come across one before. I'm pig sick." His wife, Chris, was "gutted".

Mr Warner sells his lobsters to restaurants and private customers throughout the country and he has no idea where his prize catch went. Given that it was boiled at Mrs B's, it was probably eaten fresh - and the customer paid cash, so there is no invoice. "Someone has had a very valuable meal without even knowing it," he said. "For me it's like winning the lottery and then discovering you have thrown the ticket away."

The albino lobster featured in the article read by Mr Warner was found in Maine. At first it was dismissed as a plastic toy. Bill Coppersmith, the lobsterman who caught it, thought it was a practical joke. "It looked like someone had planted a toy in the pot," he said. Now "Lionel", as the lobster has been nicknamed, is being hailed as one of the rarest live finds in marine history and one private collector is reportedly offering pounds 14,000 for him.

Mr Coppersmith is "real curious" to see what colour Lionel would turn if he was cooked, "but if he's worth that much, perhaps I can live with not finding out," he said. Another albino lobster, "Barry", which weighs 1lb 2oz, resides at the Sea Life Centre in Scarborough, north Yorkshire. Following the discovery of Lionel, the centre's owners woke up to Barry's worth. Barry is now insured for pounds 20,000.

But none of that helps Mr Warner, who has resigned himself to laughing off his misfortune - and looking a little closer at his lobsters in future.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence