Tiny Scottish island of Canna hit by first crime in decades

Six knitted hats were among the items stolen from the island's only shop

Jamie Merrill@Jamie_Merrill
Wednesday 17 June 2015 23:10
The last crime in Canna, in the Inner Hebrides, was recorded in the 1960s
The last crime in Canna, in the Inner Hebrides, was recorded in the 1960s

It’s less than four miles long and a mile wide, has a population of just 26 and no police station, but the tiny island of Canna in the Inner Hebrides is in the middle of an unexpected crime wave.

The latest crime figures won’t make Police Scotland worry too much though - thieves struck the community shop in the first theft on the remote island in decades.

The volunteer-run shop has been run on an “honesty basis” for four years, allowing the few locals, passing fishermen and kayakers to leave cash in exchange for groceries.

Canna has a population of 26 people

However the crime rate on the island soared from zero on Friday when thieves struck, emptying the shelves of sweets, biscuits, coffee, toiletries, batteries and six wool hats, that had been hand-knitted by shop manager Julie McCabe.

The last time a theft was reported on Canna is believed to have been in 1960s, when a carved wooden plate was stolen from Rhu Church. That case was never solved, but police say crime on the island is “rare”.

Ms McCabe said: “I am absolutely floored that someone has been in and done that to our community… We are going to have to consider locking the door at night.

Officers from the mainland have had to be drafted in to investigate the crime and want to speak to anyone who docked at Canna pier on Friday night. The island’s community shop is left open around the clock so that passers-by can use the free wi-fi and help themselves to a cup of tea or coffee.

However this policy of openness may have been the shop's downfall. A message posted on the Facebook page of the Isle of Canna Community Development Trust said: “The thieves would have had to fill carrier bags with the amount of items they took.

”Sadly, this means we will have to lock the door of the shop overnight now. We left it open specifically to welcome fisherman in to use the wi-fi and buy anything they needed while resting in at our pier overnight.

“The feedback from the fishing community was that it is a most welcome service. It is, therefore, very sad that they and other visitors have to lose out.”

Councillor Bill Clark, who has represented the area for 13 years, said: “It's quite unbelievable; it's something you don't hear about at all in the Inner Isles.

”I would think this is the first crime in years - I don't know for sure but I certainly haven't heard of any crime there in my time.

“I doubt very much if anyone even locks their doors there.”

Despite the local councillor’s recollections, the island hasn’t been crime free for too long. In 2009 the island was rocked by a far more serious crime, when Canna's former special constable was convicted of sexual assaulting two women on the island.

Patrick MacKinnon, who was also convicted of possessing two unlicensed rifles and a shotgun, became an outcast after the attacks, and was arrested by police from the mainland who used a lifeboat to travel to the island and carry out the arrest. Mr MacKinnon, who was born and brought up on the island, was found dead on the mainland the following year.

The National Trust for Scotland, which owns the island, said: ”We were sorry to hear about this theft from the shop on Canna, which the community have worked hard to make a success.

“Thankfully, incidents like this are extremely rare and Canna is a very safe place."

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