Police have made an appeal to find the owner of two violins to help solve a string of bizarre burglaries and arsons that culminated in an escape on a canal boat.

The violins were found on a driveway of a house in London Road, Devizes, on a night when a canal cruiser owned by pensioner Lionel Gordon was stolen and set on fire.

PC Ted Roe is appealing for anyone who recognises the violins to make contact. He said: “The violins are not in great condition and the owner might not want them back but they could have some useful information about a break-in at a place we are not already aware of.”

The arsonist struck on July 4 and began his trail of destruction at 11.15pm when a bag of rubbish was set alight inside derelict outbuilding in the grounds of St Peter’s School in Bath Road.

At 1.55am on Saturday a shed was set alight in the grounds of Braeside educational centre in Bath Road.

The fire spread from a shed to the roof of an old stables building that was used as an outside classroom.

At 3.35am a petrol mower was set alight inside a garage at Keepers Road, Devizes.

It is then thought the arsonist went to Rockley in London Road, where the two violins and a bicycle were left on the driveway, before the boat was taken from a mooring at the bottom of the garden and used as a getaway vehicle before the culprit realised they would have to negotiate the Caen Hill flight of locks.

After clearing four of the 29 locks the fugitive turned the boat around and set it on fire. A 27-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of arson, burglary and theft of a motor vehicle. He is on bail.