Police are looking for thieves who disabled an alarm system, then smashed through the office wall of Arbutus Music in north Nanaimo to steal several rare vintage guitars on the weekend. (Facebook photo)

Thieves smash through wall to steal rare guitars in Nanaimo

Thieves steal guitars worth $50,000 after smashing through drywall to enter north-end music store

Richard Leighton, owner of Arbutus Music, is tallying up his company’s losses after rare vintage guitars were stolen during a break-in over the weekend.

Leighton said employees discovered the break-in while opening the store, on Metral Drive in north Nanaimo on Saturday morning.

They found culprits had broken into the building’s electrical room, disabled the alarm system and then smashed a hole through the store’s office wall.

Guitars taken included a 1959 cherry-red Gibson Les Paul, a blonde 1975 Fender Telecaster Custom, red 1962 National Westwood 77, a 1916 Martin and a red 1965 Fender Mustang and other guitars valued at roughly $50,000.

“I haven’t had chance to appraise them all yet,” Leighton said. “That’s going to be part of it with the insurance company.”

The rarity and unique designs of the guitars will make them diffult to re-sell.

“The ’62 National Westwood 77; there’s just one for sale on Reverb.com in North America right now, you know, you just don’t see them,” Leighton said. “I had some vinyl Hofner guitars from the ’50s that were covered in a Naugahyde fake vinyl, in like, fake crocodile skin. Like ugly as ugly, right? Where are you going to sell those?”

There is sentimental value to the instruments and one of Leighton’s favourites was the ‘59 Gibson Les Paul.

“That’s my desert island guitar,” he said. “If out of all my guitars, I was only allowed to keep one, that’s probably it.”

But Leighton said it’s unlikely the culprits knew he had those particular guitars in the store. If they knew what they were looking for, he has much more expensive guitars in his collection, they most likely just grabbed whatever they came across, including a credit card they used to make purchases in Walmart.

“There’s footage of them using the card at Walmart and some restaurants and bank machines trying to get cash withdrawals,” he said.

Arbutus Music was the victim of a theft in 2014 when a rare 1952 Fender Stratocaster was among the instruments taken. That theft drew broad attention from the music community, including Elton John, who shared news of the loss on social media.

Leighton said he he feels bad over his loss, but often feels worse when he hears of thefts from working musicians, often struggling and who can’t afford insurance or to replace their instruments, or people who lose irreplaceable family heirlooms.

“For us in the commercial world, it’s a common occurrence unfortunately,” Leighton said. “My buddy Joe Keller just got his jewelry store broken into in Lantzville and another one just got hit downtown. The poor cops are just run off their feet here,” he said.

Leighton hopes the guitars stolen will be covered under his store’s insurance and said the alarm system has been repaired and upgraded to prevent this type of break-in from happening again.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman said investigators are following up by reviewing security footage of attempts to use the stolen credit and other evidence.

“We’re hoping if somebody hears something they’ll call us,” O’Brien said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or, to remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, text 274637, keyword Nanaimo or submit a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.



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