NatWest bank, the largest commercial bank in the UK, has lost a pensioner’s safety deposit box which she says contained irreplaceable heirlooms worth £20,000 ($30,074).
Hayat Panwar, 69, stored antique jewelry given to her by her grandparents and parents including her wedding and engagement rings at the Solihull branch of the bank in February 2009.
But when she went into her local NatWest branch in November 2012 and asked staff to retrieve the box, they told her they could not find the it or its contents.
NatWest has apologized to Ms. Panwar and says it will compensate her for the loss. The bank also says it is doing all it can to locate the box. But the pensioner says the items which have been passed through her family for generations are irreplaceable.
“I just cried, I broke down,” she told BBC News. “Since then I’ve been on medication, I haven’t been the same, I wake up in the night, thinking about it. It’s affected my life and I don’t know what to do.”
In a statement, NatWest Bank said:
“In addition, we have made a request for information from Mrs Panwar as to the contents of the safety custody box, in order to discuss compensation to go some way to make amends for the loss she has experienced.”
For her part, Ms. Panwar insists the heirlooms were “priceless”.
She added, “I just want my gold back. I don’t feel myself and I don’t think I’d feel the same even if I got the money. It’s part of my mum and dad and that’s what I want back. I would love to give a piece to my children and grandchildren.”
The UK’s financial ombudsman recorded between 50 and 60 complaints a year about deposit boxes, with most tending to be disputes about what the contents are or complaints about damages.
This latest embarrassment comes after damaging computer failures throughout NatWest’s internal systems caused a national crisis in the UK last year and led to the government bailing the bank out with public money.
More recently, the part-taxpayer owned Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns NatWest, prompted fury last week when RBS revealed it would be paying out £600 million ($902 million) in lucrative staff bonuses, despite losing £5 billion ($7.51 billion) in 2012, Herald Scotland notes.