The owner of two Colourist paintings stolen 16 years ago has expressed her frustration at the collapse of a legal case about the theft.

Still Life with Tulips and Fruit, by George Leslie Hunter, was stolen from the home of Elizabeth Young and her later husband Harry, along with a still life by another Scottish Colourist, FCB Cadell.

The valuable paintings were stolen from the owners' home at Candacraig Gardens, in Strathdon in 2001.

The two paintings were believed to have each been worth a six-figure sum, but were re-discovered ten years ago.

However last month, when the case over the theft came to court, two people, former friends of the Youngs, Penelope Thomas-Smith and her husband Phillip Thomas-Smith, had the case against them dropped after a legal debate.

The collapse of the case has left Mrs Young without redress for the theft.

She told a Sunday newspaper: "I am more than appalled. It's disgraceful. The police did their best and are very upset. The outcome makes me want to vomit."

Mrs Young added: "I don't understand how the court could get in a little huddle and make a decision without witnesses or evidence being put forward.

"I don't understand how they can even be allowed to do that."

The Thomas-Smiths live in Bulgaria and were arrested last year.

The couple who left the village after the paintings were stolen in July 2001 and moved to Northern Cyprus.

Mrs Thomas-Smith organised weddings in the Young’s Victorian summerhouse in the Candacraig walled garden.

At Aberdeen Sheriff Court two weeks ago, the couple had not guilty pleas accepted by the Crown following a legal debate.

The pair were not in attendance at the hearing.

A spokesman for The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “As with any case, the decision to prosecute was taken after full and careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances and the evidence available at that time.

“It is the duty of the Crown to keep cases under review and due to a change in the evidential position the Crown decided to discontinue proceedings.

“The Crown reserve the right to re-raise proceedings should the evidential position change.”

The two paintings were left to Mr Young by his mother, an art collector who bought the works in the 1960s.

The paintings went missing after the Youngs went away for a weekend break.

Mrs Young said: "We were devastated. It was very up and down emotionally. It definitely affected Harry badly. He lost trust in people."

In 2006, the stolen Hunter was spotted in an auction sale and was recovered, and the Cadell was subsequently also discovered.

However, neither painting was insured, and the Cadell had to be sold to cover recovery costs.