LONDON — For nearly six years, money seemed to be falling from the sky onto the streets of a village in northeastern England.
Residents of the village, Blackhall Colliery, regularly found neat bundles of 20-pound notes, then promptly handed the money to police. The bundles often amounted to 2,000 pounds, or about $2,600.
But the question of where the cash had come from left authorities baffled. The police revealed this week that two people who wished to be known only as good Samaritans had been dotting the money around town in an effort to “give something back” to the community.
At least 26,000 pounds had been found since 2014 near the main street of Blackhall Colliery, a former mining village of less than 5,000 residents on the North Sea coast.
The Durham Constabulary, the police force responsible for the surrounding county, first went public with the mystery in November in a last-ditch effort to find the source of the money. Inquiries to residents, village organizations, the post office and local bank had yielded nothing, nor had tests for fingerprints.
“These bundles are always left in plain sight such as on pavements and discovered by random members of the public who have handed them in,” John Forster, detective constable of the Durham Constabulary said in a statement released in November, after the fourth bundle that year was handed to the police. He appealed to the public to come forward with any relevant information.
The news of the cash drops spread quickly, drawing international attention and heated speculation about who, or what, might be behind them. The village residents were also praised for their honesty, as they consistently turned the cash over to the police. When no one came to claim it, the finders received the money themselves.
At least one element of the mystery came to an end on Monday, when the Durham Constabulary said that two people had come forward as the village’s philanthropists.
They both asked to remain anonymous, and police referred to them as only “the good Samaritans.” Forster said in a phone interview on Tuesday that the pair — who, he said, knew each other but appear to be unrelated — did not choose Blackhall Colliery “at random.”
“It’s something personal for them,” he said.
The police said in a statement released this week that “both generous individuals had recently received unexpected windfalls and told police they wanted to give something back.”
“One of the Good Samaritans told detectives that they felt an ‘emotional connection’ to the village after being helped by one of the residents, so she wanted to repay the kindness she received,” police said.
Police said that the pair left the bundles of 20-pound notes in places where people in need, including the elderly or vulnerable, would be likely to find them.
But police said they didn’t leave everything to chance, and often waited until they saw someone pick up the money.
Forster said on Tuesday that the only detail he had withheld from the public was the exact way the bundles were wrapped. That detail was “one of the bits of information that we used to verify the authenticity of these people,” he added.
Forster said that if more cash were to appear on the sidewalks in Blackhall Colliery, residents should still hand it in to police. They would most likely get it back — all the previous cash bundles were returned to the people who found them, according to police — but now they could feel good about using the money.
“Even the people who found the money weren’t comfortable with spending it,” he said on Tuesday, noting concerns about where it had come from.
So the mystery was solved for the sake of the people of Blackhall Colliery.
“I think it was just a case of reassuring them,” Forster said on Tuesday, “that it was deliberately meant for them to find.”