A family almost had their holiday to Blackpool ruined after high-tech thieves stole their car, as well as a deeply sentimental football shirt inside it.
Arthur McHugh, his wife Lyn, and their children Liam, nine, Ciaran, eight, and Caimhe, three, had their white BMW X6 taken from the Cliffs Hotel on the Promenade.
To make things worse, the footie shirt, signed by Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers and captain Scott Brown, was supposed to be auctioned off for charity this weekend.
It was set to raise cash for a foundation set up in memory of Kieran McDade, who collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest while training with Liam and Ciaran’s team Dunbeth in 2016.
He died a week later aged just 13.
But after hearing of their ordeal, bosses at the hotel, a top resort attraction, and Blackpool FC and Fleetwood Town FC pulled out all the stops to make sure the Airdrie family leave with fonder memories of their trip.
And it worked.
Self-employed Arthur, 53, said: “It’s put a smile back on their faces. The help we have had from people has changed the attitude from how we were feeling – from down a few days ago to happy people have gone out their way to help us.
“It’s been super.”
The £60,000 car was taken at around 2.20am on Monday, with CCTV footage from the hotel showing two men using a specialist device to disable its alarm, unlock it, and drive it away.
The theft was noticed around seven hours later when the family went to set off for Fleetwood Town’s Poolfoot Farm training complex, where footie-mad Liam and Ciaran were due to have a kickabout.
The devastated pair burst into tears and had to be consoled by staff at the hotel, who quickly checked its security cameras, served the youngsters some complimentary treats, and gave the family free tram passes to help them get around.
Arthur, who travels to Blackpool with his family several times a year, even appearing on Channel Five’s Bargain Loving Brits in Blackpool last year, said he was later offered a free weekend break at the Cliffs, describing its response as ‘super’.
Manager Tom Neldon said: “We are truly sorry for our guests that their car has been stolen. We will do anything we can to help our customers.”
Blackpool FC gave the family free tickets to the 3-0 home victory against Northampton on Tuesday evening, and invited them in to meet the players at lunchtime yesterday.
And Fleetwood Town are set to welcome them at first team training today, where they will also meet and greet the players.
The top resort attraction, which declined publicity for the kind gesture, gave the whole family free entry after being contacted by The Gazette earlier this week.
Grateful Arthur said: “It was super and the boys loved it.”
But he was initially critical of police, who the family claimed did not go out and see them.
“They said somebody would be out,” Arthur said. “My wife waited in all day. She phoned them at 3.45pm to see if they were coming – they said they couldn’t but they will be in touch.
“I just thought I would get more help from the boys in blue. Everybody else has been so nice.”
The force found the car in Chesterfield Road yesterday, after a spokesman said officers were ‘doing our best to find the vehicle involved’.
It was forensically examined for fingerprints, it is understood, and the football shirt was still inside.
Arthur said: “I’m crying with emotion.”
The thieves had been described as ‘despicable’ in a Facebook post by The Kieran McDade Foundation.
“Arthur and his wife Lyn work hard for all they have got and to enjoy the luxuries they can afford but they don’t deserve this,” it said.
“I would like everyone to share this, and hopefully it reaches the people who have nothing better to do with their time than destroy hard working people’s holidays.
“I hope you get the enjoyment you crave for stealing someone’s car and that one day you go through something similar and see the damage you can do to young kids.”
If you have information about the theft, you can report it to police by calling 101, quoting reference number LC-2018-04-09-0362.
Alternatively, Crimestoppers can be called anonymously on 0800 555 111.