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Frank Gilfeather: Mystery of the vanishing Union Terrace Gardens granite is worthy of Poirot

Police have revealed no one - not Aberdeen City Council or Balfour Beatty - has reported a stack of granite, pictured here in an Aberdeen garden, stolen from Union Terrace Gardens.
Allegedly dozens of slabs found in a garden within the city were removed from Union Terrace Gardens for safe keeping

How do you remove and transport enough granite steps to build a
stairway to heaven without anybody noticing?

It’s a question that has taxed us after it was discovered that huge steps from Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens, currently undergoing a £28 million refurbishment, were “no longer in the council’s possession”.

Nicked? Hercule Poirot might have asked that when learning the granite in the gardens had to be reused on the renovation. Now the local authority’s torturer-in-chief is already at work deep in the bowels of their Marischal College HQ where an unseemly inquisition is taking place.

Those of a certain vintage will recall that the disappearance of materials from major projects was not uncommon

Incidentally, the torturer does not wish her identity to be known, but I have seen her all in black, including mask, at the checkout in Markies, though I concede she could have been an off-duty member of staff protecting herself from Covid.

A job for the CID (construction investigation department)

Judging by photographs, the granite steps appear to be of sufficient quantity to build a one bedroom home, which suggests the need for a crane and a vehicle capable of withstanding the kind of weight that would have sunk the Titanic long before she became acquainted with that iceberg.

It is thought the granite found in an Aberdeen garden could be from the staircase leading into Union Terrace Gardens, photographed in 2017.
It is thought the granite found in an Aberdeen garden could be from the staircase leading into Union Terrace Gardens, photographed in 2017

In due course, we will learn of the findings of the council’s probe and how the new owner of the steps, in whose garden they were discovered, was happy to hand them back and ditch plans for a spectacular water feature. Are detectives from the CID (construction investigation department) taking notes? How much is granite worth on the black market anyway?

The disappearance of expensive materials is nothing new

Those of a certain vintage will recall that the disappearance of materials from major projects was not uncommon. One former city councillor told me of questioning officials over how swathes of expensive carpet, carried in through the front door of His Majesty’s Theatre during its £3.5 million renovation in the early 1980s, were going straight out of the rear exit and into homes across the city.

“Ooh, lovely carpets, Gladys.” You can almost hear the compliment.

“It looks familiar. General George? Carpetworld?”

“HMT, Margaret. £1.50 a square metre. No questions asked.”

Expensive carpet from His Majesty’s Theatre may have ended up in homes across Aberdeen

Indeed, even today we hear, courtesy of court cases, how expensive metals often find their way into the yards of scrap dealers, themselves seldom on the end of the long arm of the law for paying miscreants they never suspected of wrongdoing.

“It didn’t cross our minds that the half-ton of lead we took from the accused’s van might have come from a church roof, chief inspector.”

As for the granite steps, let’s put it down to one of those Penn and Teller illusions.

“We’re going to make them disappear and turn up in somebody’s backies,” Penn – the one who speaks – might have announced.

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