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Lost in the post, the £20,000 charity guitar


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Lost in the post, the £20,000 charity guitar signed by the stars

Rock legends happily signed the guitar Dave Allen carried with him on a fundraising crusade.

Rather than risk losing it in the post, the music promoter or a member of his staff would personally ferry the Fender Stratocaster around the country .

But just weeks before the instrument - boasting the signatures of Eric Clapton, Brian May, Jimmy Page and Bill Wyman, among others - was due to fetch around £20,000 at auction for a children's charity, it has vanished.

Unable to find anyone to carry it home from a signing by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, Mr Allen entrusted it to couriers Parcelforce for the first time - and they promptly lost it.

Yesterday Mr Allen said he was "gutted2 at the news as he contemplated starting the year-long project again from scratch.

The guitar disappeared last month while in the care of Parcelforce en route from Knopfler's London office to Mr Allen's home in Market Harborough, Leicestershire.

The firm has spent four weeks scanning closed-circuit TV footage of its premises and searching depots in a futile bid to track down the missing instrument, which also featured the signatures of Gary Moore, Pete Townshend of The Who and Hollywood actor and blues musician Steven Seagal.

Parcelforce has now offered Mr Allen, of Mad Hatters Concerts, £15,000 as a gesture of goodwill.

Yesterday the promoter told how he had been reluctant to leave the guitar in the post for fear it would go missing - but his hand was forced when other commitments left nobody free to drop it off.

He said: "You hear about things going missing in the post all the time and that's why I made sure the guitar was personally escorted, except for this one occasion.

"What I don't understand is how something as large as a Stratocaster can just disappear.

"Everybody is very, very deflated. It started in January with Steven Seagal and it just snowballed from there.

"People like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page are the real A-listers in the world of rock and roll, which made it a nice piece.

"I was devastated when I found out. I was in a state of shock. It was the first and only time we had let the guitar out of our hands."

Mr Allen had also planned to secure the signatures of Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen before the guitar went under the hammer later this month. Profits were due to go to the Loughboroughbased Rainbows Hospice for children.

A Parcelforce spokesman said: "We apologise sincerely for the loss and continue our efforts to trace the parcel.

"We have made a donation to Rainbows Hospice as a gesture of goodwill."

The guitar, donated by a music industry employee who had heard about Mr Allen's project, was insured only for its £600 face value.

Brian May has already been in touch with Mr Allen, offering to resign another guitar.

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