Thieves have stolen some of the world’s rarest musical instruments from the home of Northern Ireland’s ‘Accordion Man’.
Police issued an appeal after 30 accordions, some dating back to the 1920s, were stolen from the Co Down home of Ken Hopkins, along with his late wife’s wedding ring.
The 64-year-old, from Comber, is known across the UK and Ireland as the Accordion Man for his collection of several hundred of the instruments — many of them unique — collected from across the world over the past 40 years.
Among those taken was a 1920s Maguan Freres piano key accordion, one of only five in the world.
On August 4 the widower was approached at his home by two men who said they wanted to buy an accordion for their grandfather.
They arranged to meet him outside a supermarket on Belfast’s Falls Road two days later to pay for the instrument.
As Ken waited nearly two hours for the pair to arrive, they called him several times claiming they were delayed.
“As I was waiting for them they rang to say they had been held up, that they would be there in 30 minutes, then 45 minutes. They had southern Irish accents,” he said.
“The whole time they were clearing the house out. When I came back home I discovered they had wrecked the place.
“They went through the whole house and took accordions, the wedding ring belonging to my wife Pauline, who died 14 years ago, a Rolex ring and watch, and a motorhome I got last year.”
Mr Hopkins, who has been “hooked” on accordions since he saw the instrument being played at a parade at the age of five, said he was “devastated”.
“I cannot get over it yet. I cannot even sleep right,” the distraught father-of-three added. Among the antique accordions was a highly-unusual 49-key 1920s Tulle piano accordion and a silver-plated Hohner Gola accordion made by Gola himself, a renowned German accordion-maker.
“They are worth thousands of pounds. My Gola alone is worth £20,000 to £30,000,” he said.
“I would be known a fair distance in the accordion community. I’m called the Accordion Man; they were my pride and joy.
“I feel sort of stupid, but you don’t think of something like this. If anyone knows anything, I would ask them to notify the police.”
A PSNI spokesman said: “These items are rare and specialist. We would appeal to anyone who has information to contact the police on 084 5600 8000, or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Police are also hunting for the six-berth Fiat Ducato motorhome, registration number W91 PVMI.