Police have received more than 40 calls from customers of Stuart Porter, the antiques dealer who disappeared last month.
Officers began investigating Mr Porter after the closure of his shop in Broad Street, Stamford, at the start of August.
Stamford sector inspector Mike Burnett said his entire team was now working on the case and had spoken to more than 40 people with complaints about Mr Porter.
He added: “The response from the public has been positive.
“This is going to be a big inquiry and will take some time. But without the public coming forward we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now in.
“The hard work starts here.”
Insp Burnett said the investigation would shortly be passed on to the criminal investigation department but encouraged any people with complaints about Mr Porter to come forward.
Several people got in touch with the Mercury following last week’s front page story. We agreed to use their comments anonymously.
One of Mr Porter’s former customers said the antiques dealer had two items of furniture of theirs he was supposed to be selling at auction.
They said: “Neither of the items were hugely valuable but they had been in my family. We moved to our current house a year ago and the furniture wasn’t suitable to we decided to sell it. He said they could be sold at auction. He tried and they didn’t meet their reserve. He said he would keep them for a future auction and he would put them in that. A couple of weeks ago I called in and spoke to his assistant. I said I really needed to get them back. She promised that he would get back to me. The next thing I realise was that the shop had gone.
“You don’t like to assume that someone is a rogue and has run off with the stuff. I wanted to give him an opportunity to get in touch. But I’m really disappointed because I thought it was a reputable business. He was clearly promoting himself as being a reputable trader. It’s disappointing when you put your trust in someone like that and they let you down.”
One customer left a family heirloom worth £600 for Mr Porter to sell. They said: “I’ve been on holiday for three weeks but the alarm bells were ringing before I went away. The item belonged to my father. Stuart said he would have a word with people. He said it was a lovely item. He said he would ask around and let me know what he thought it was worth. I wanted to buy something to remember my father with.”
One customer began to suspect something was wrong when they visited the shop to try and get their items back. They said “I have been trying to get them back. I went in a few months ago and someone said they were at his house. They are worth £4,200. They have been there for a year. They belonged to my gran. I wanted to sell them because they are quite old-fashioned and I wanted to give some money to my daughter.”
And one customer left an antique for sale with a reserve of £1,600. They said: “I have a receipt. He said it would be covered by their insurance so I left it with him to sell. I popped in occasionally to see how it was going. He said he would take it to auction with him getting a commission. I never became suspicious. He came across as a jovial, pleasant man. I didn’t really give it a second thought. I wish I had.”
Businesses have also been affected. The owner of one firm told the Mercury they used to sell their items from Mr Porter’s shop, but became suspicious and removed them. They are now trying to distance themselves from the dealer in the hope it doesn’t affect their own business. The owner added: “It’s surprising because I have known him since we have been here. He was a very outgoing, charismatic person. It leaves a rather nasty taste.”
To speak to police about the Stuart Porter case, call 101 and ask to be put through to the Stamford police station or visit the front inquiry desk in North Street.