A late night police session to train sniffer dogs turned into drama on Sunday when a real-life criminal struck right under their noses.
Officers heard a series of bangs while they were busy testing the dogs on land at Bradwell Abbey between 11pm and midnight.
They had no idea that a child crook had chosen that moment to cause thousands of pounds worth of damage by smashing 19 windows at the Abbey’s Georgian Gatehouse.
An officer rushed over to find that the vandal, thought to be aged between 11 and 13, had fled the scene.
But the sniffer dogs put their newly-rehearsed skills into practise and tracked him all the way to Bradwell Village, before losing the scent.
Now police and Bradwell Abbey staff are appealing for information about the young culprit, who used a stick or bat to break the glass.
They are convinced he is a ‘serial smasher’ and responsible for a previous attack of the Gatehouse a few months ago when 13 windows were broken.
Bradwell Abbey director Henk van Aswegen said: “The same windows were smashed again. They are big bay windows that have to be specially made, so it is costing a fortune to repair them each time.”
The home of the City Discovery Centre, the Abbey site is an ancient monument and run as a charity for the community to enjoy.
Said Henk: “This is an example of mindless vandalism without any apparent motive. But it is affecting everybody in Milton Keynes. We need to catch the person responsible.”
From the height of the damage caused, police have estimated the culprit’s height and approximate age, he said.
“Surely somebody knows who this person is. Not many young people aged between 10 and 13 would be out at that time of night,” added Henk.
The two vandalism sprees have so far cost the charity £10,000. Now special CCTV cameras have been installed so the culprit can be spotted at every angle.
A spokesman for Thames Valley Police confirmed a dog handler went to investigate, but by the time he arrived the offenders had gone.
She added: “The dog was used to attempt and trace them, but this was unsuccessful. We are appealing to anyone who may have information about this incident to contact police via 101.”