Locals living in a village where people have found 13 bundles of £2,000 and handed them in said the first they knew about the mystery was when police announced it on social media.
Gossip about the puzzling series of events in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, had not spread beyond a few rumours about money being found.
The village, made up of a long high street with rows of terraces off it, overlooking the North Sea, once had a thriving pit and has retained its sense of community, locals said.
Until a post on Durham Police’s Facebook page on Monday, no-one appeared to know an anonymous donor had repeatedly dropped off bundles of 100 £20 notes in clear plastic cash bags, leaving them in communal areas such as in the local park, outside a church and behind shops.
It has been happening since 2014 and the last time was on Monday, when detectives went public with their inquiry to find out who was behind the random generosity.
Police have contacted the local bank and post office, and tried to trace the donor from fingerprints, so far without success.
Detective Constable John Forster said: “We’ve even had the theory that it could be a lottery winner who has decided to pay something back to their local community, but the truth is we don’t know.
“I hope that by going public with this that we get some answers, rather than whoever is behind this suddenly going quiet.
“I really don’t think this is connected to criminality because people in that game are very careful with their money, they can account for every penny in my experience.”
Gaynor Crute, chairwoman of Monk Hesleden Parish Council, which covers Blackhall Colliery, took pride in the fact that 13 times people have handed the cash over to police.
Each time they can claim it if the rightful owner has not come forward.
She said: “There’s so much negativity and bad press so when you have something like this it is obviously heart-warming to know the people you live with, your neighbours, have so much honesty and integrity.
“It could be they’re in a situation where they could do with a nice windfall but they have still handed it in.”
She added: “Where has it come from? Is it a Good Samaritan, a well-wisher?
“Then you think why Blackhall, what’s the link? Maybe it is someone who worked in the colliery.
“The money has been left in public places, where you expect people to be, so they want it to be found.
“A place like Blackhall, everybody knows everybody and everyone knows their business and yet nobody has a clue.
“It’s so intriguing, all around the village people are talking about it.”
Parish clerk Lynda Wardle wondered: “Is it a good person, is it somebody who is trying to make up for bad deeds?
“It’s so random – who could pick it up? It could be anyone.”
Blackhall was the home of Bradley Lowery, the mascot who touched the hearts of many in football with his battle against neuroblastoma, and it came to a standstill for his funeral when he died, aged six.
A barmaid at the Hardwick Hotel, the pub known to locals as The Wick, said: “Is it a modern day Robin Hood? But criminals don’t give their money away.”
A drinker, who declined to be named, said: “The community is very close here and if someone found £2,000 in the street, you’d expect them to come down The Wick and say ‘everyone can have a pint’.
“It’s the sort of place where if someone had an extra £2,000, people would know.
“Maybe someone has won the lottery and when they’ve drunk themselves sober and done everything on their bucket list and not even made a dent in the interest, they could be sick of money.
“It’s like Brewster’s Millions.”
Housewife Margaret Guthrie, 59, said: “It doesn’t make any sense at all. I have no idea who has done this.”
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