Thieves 'burst open tomb’ at Dalkeith graveyard filled with 600-year-old skeletons

A tomb filled with 600-year-old skeletons in a Dalkeith church graveyard is thought to have been accidentally burst open by thieves using a ladder to steal lead.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 6:00 am
St Nicholas Buccleuch Parish Church, Dalkeith.

The mishap exposed the human bones in a 3ft-deep void in the ground – previously covered with stone slabs – beside St Nicholas Buccleuch Parish Church in the High Street.

A Church of Scotland spokesperson said there is evidence a metal ladder was placed against the church wall with the feet resting on a slab which broke under someone’s weight, exposing the ancient lair.

The spokesperson said: “While it is unclear if the motivation was theft, office bearers discovered that a lead rainwater drain had been removed from the wall and was found near pieces of the broken slab.

“As soon as the hole was discovered, a local building company was called and a temporary cover was carefully placed over the hole, taking care not to disturb the remains.

“The area was coned off to make people aware it was a hazard and the police were informed.

“Officers attended and inspected the scene, and a member of East Lothian Council’s archaeology service carried out a site visit.

“The council officer advised office bearers to ensure that the bones were not disturbed, kept within the void beneath the hole, and arrange for the broken paving slab to be replaced.

“This work has now been carried out.”

One source told The Scottish Sun, which first reported the story behind the ancient find, that it was possible whoever burst through the grave was spooked and ran off and left empty handed. The newspaper said that a ladder was also found dumped nearby.

A local resident who saw the tomb while on a walk through the graveyard told The Sun that the hole was about 3ft deep.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We were made aware on Tuesday, July 13 of human remains uncovered in the grounds of a church on the High Street in Dalkeith.

“The bones are historic in nature and there are no suspicious circumstances.”

The church is named after St Nicholas - the patron saint of repentant thieves - who was known for performing miracles.