FEARS have been raised that scrap metal thieves have been responsible for the loss of several railings from a public footbridge over the River Thurso.
And community representatives worry that the criminals could strike again at the Mall Walk bridge near the town’s cemetery which is a link on the popular walk along the riverside.
It was opened in 2009 after the original bridge was washed away in a storm three years previously.
Several stainless steel railings look to have been ripped off the steps leading up to the bridge with only the bolts remaining.
Highland Council is gearing up to replace the missing links with officials in the dark over what happened to them.
Thurso community councillor Alexander Glasgow believes they were removed several months ago.
His biggest concern is metal thieves are operating in the area and that they could target the bridge again.
He said: “One of the railings went missing last year, but since then it appears another set has gone missing.
“It has been called vandalism but I wouldn’t describe it as that – I think they have been deliberately removed.
“The railings were bolted into the slate and they have obviously been unscrewed.
“As they are made of stainless steel, I think it could be scrap metal thieves who have been responsible.
“I don’t believe it is idle vandalism as there is a nationwide problem with scrap metal theft.
“My main concern is those responsible might come back.”
Highland Council has plans to replace the railings in the near future
But a spokewoman for Highland Council could not confirm when that was going to take place.
She said: “Materials for replacement railings are at the council’s Thurso yard which we hope will be installed over the coming weeks.”
The £250,000 replacement bridge was opened by late Thurso councillor John Rosie.
It was designed by Arch Henderson & Co and built by McGregor Construction.
Scottish Natural Heritage were consulted as the riverside is a site of special scientific interest.
The bridge is part of the Mall Walk which Thurso Rotary Club launched in 1999 after making it accessible for all users, including wheelchair users, and resurfacing existing and creating new paths.