RBS loses Edinburgh woman’s safe deposit box containing ‘irreplaceable' jewels - including mother's rare sapphire and father's World War II medals

A major bank has lost an Edinburgh woman’s safe deposit box containing a variety of “irreplaceable” jewellery - including her mother’s rare star sapphire bought in Sri Lanka in the 1950s and her father’s World War II medals.

Carole Mowat planned to access the box held by RBS this week to view her grandmother’s birth certificate, and find out whether she could claim Irish residency to obtain an EU Passport.

But after contacting a RBS call centre last Thursday to make an appointment, she was told the Castle Street branch it was kept in for decades had been closed down a few years ago despite receiving no notification at the time.

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It is thought the safe deposit box may have been moved to another RBS branch in the West End of the city but, after visiting the branch in person on Monday, Ms Mowat says although staff there were helpful they are none the wiser as to where it is - and inquiries are ongoing.

Speaking to the Edinburgh Evening News, Ms Mowat said: “I am in a right state about this because obviously the box is missing and, if it’s missing, how do I deal with compensation replacement for the items in it because they are irreplaceable. There is no value on any of it.”

She continued: “This just should not happen. You pay for these boxes to keep things safe. It’s there so that things are not stolen, and I did live abroad for a while so did not want to carry this stuff around with me or leave them around the house. It’s just been a family tradition to have it.”

The safe deposit box concerned belonged to Ms Mowat’s mother, Thelma Hardacre, for 30 years before she inherited it herself about 20 years ago.

Family paperwork is contained inside along with several jewels collected by her mother from her travels in the 1950s when she worked as a beautician and hairdresser on board the prestigious Cunard cruise liners.

RBS is tying to find Carole's safe deposit box, similar to another one she owns and keeps at the RBS St Andrew's Square branch. Thelma Hardacre is seen here beside a cruise liner in Naples and, left, together with her husband Fred at their wedding. Pictures: Carole Mowat
RBS is tying to find Carole's safe deposit box, similar to another one she owns and keeps at the RBS St Andrew's Square branch. Thelma Hardacre is seen here beside a cruise liner in Naples and, left, together with her husband Fred at their wedding. Pictures: Carole Mowat

Among the missing valuables is a rare star sapphire bought by her mother in the ‘50s in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) which was made into a ring with diamonds, a wedding ring made from the copper and gold of mines once owned by her great grandparents in Australia - and her mother’s engagement ring.

Her father Fred Hardacre’s World War II medals are also in the safe deposit box. He was in the Navy and among the first to arrive in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was detonated in August 1945, having seen the explosion from the water.

Other missing contents include a three-coloured gold - white, yellow and rose - heavy pendant commissioned for her mother by her grandparents, a wedding ring and other jewellery belonging to her mother’s friend, up to five cocktail watches including at least one gold one bought in New York around 1955, Japanese Mikimoto pearls and a natural black pearl necklace.

Ms Mowat, who is 56 and lives in the west of Edinburgh, also recalled her mother talking about meeting Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe during her travels, and she penned a number of ‘Girl at sea’ articles for the Daily Record in the late ‘50s documenting her experiences.

One of Thelma's 'Girl at Sea' articles from the '50s.

Ms Mowat said she wanted to access the safe deposit box on Monday to view her grandmother Ann Murray’s birth certificate to check whether she was born in Ireland or Australia, with the intention of applying for Irish residency to obtain an EU passport and circumvent any difficulties with new Brexit rules.

Her last visit to access the deposit box was about ten years ago and it is not a branch she would have otherwise visited.

Ms Mowat also noted that, upon speaking to staff at the West End RBS branch this week, the key they produced for their safe deposit boxes appeared much longer and flatter than the small round one she possesses.

She remains optimistic that the bank can resolve the issue but says what has happened is “unacceptable,” adding: “This should not be something that is brushed under the carpet. It should not happen and that is what I want to publicise.”

Carole's grandmother, Ann Murray, with her parents Ann and Alexander Smith at their house in Australia c1905.

A RBS spokesperson said: “We are in contact with Ms Mowat to resolve this case and apologise for any distress that this may have caused.”

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Carole Mowat (left) and her mother, Thelma.