Mummified hand stolen from Haunch of Venison pub

Thieves took an unusual trophy from a Wiltshire pub – a mummified hand amputated from a cheating gambler.

The macabre relic was held in a locked glass case at the Haunch of Venison in Salisbury. It is believed to have been cut off a gambler caught cheating during a game of whist. It clutches a pack of 18th-century playing cards and is rumoured to be cursed.

Thieves came prepared last week as they unscrewed the cabinet to take the hand, which was originally found during renovation work.

Chantelle Stefan, barmaid at the 684-year-old pub, said it is believed to have been stolen on Wednesday.

"It's a mummified hand of a card player that cheated," she said. "The butcher chopped his hand off years ago and threw it into the fireplace.

"When we did the room out it was found again. As a listed building we keep everything and put it in a display case.

"They unscrewed the lock on the side. There are bars holding it against the wall. They might have done it as a prank. Hopefully we will get it back."

According to local legend the ghost of the "Demented Whist Player" is said to haunt the pub with many visitors noticing a cold sensation in certain parts of the building.

Staff also complain that items are moved or hidden but reappear weeks later.

This is not the first time the severed hand has gone missing. It vanished in March 2004 but was mysteriously returned six weeks later.