Twas the night Before Christmas when the robbery took place. In my 40 years of selling houses, few have been burgled during the process but one memorable incident occurred on a bitterly cold winters night, on Christmas Eve around 30 years ago, in a charming old cottage located in the main street running through Bishops Lydeard.

The owner had recently inherited the property and lived in London but when advised by a neighbour that an intruder had been spotted climbing from a rear window she called to advise me she’d be arriving on the next train from Paddington and could I please pick her up at the station to go over and assess the damage and see what had been stolen.

I, in turn, reported the incident to the police and within the space of just a couple of hours, owner, village bobby and I, carried out an inspection of the entire property then huddled round a hastily lit fire in the sitting room for her to describe, and he to compile, a lengthy list of what were clearly very expensive missing articles.

The rather quaint, though very articulate, elderly lady was obviously well acquainted with her late benefactors possessions and the best part of three hours was spent as she eloquently described, and the policeman painstakingly recorded in his regulation notebook, an extensive list of valuables including silverware, fine porcelain ornaments and original artwork.

It must have been near on 11pm  as his interview drew to a conclusion whereupon the patient and highly attentive officer of the law mopped his brow with one hand whilst the other placed his pen and bulging notebook in his breast pocket. Then came the bombshell - ‘Oh by the way Constable’, my client addressed him, ‘I have an album here with colour photographs of all those missing items, will it help?’

I’ve never heard a policeman scream but if ever one had a very good excuse to let out a whopper, this one did. He never murmured but his sideways glance in my direction said it all!

Chris Willey is an Independent Property Appraiser and welcomes enquiries on Taunton 01823 412661