The scene was set. A large, valuable staircase had gone missing, a consultant had been overheard saying it would look good in his Dales home, the NHS fraud squad had been alerted and HSJ had been tipped off.

It looked like an open-and-shut (stair)case, a chance for the NHS counter-fraud team to show that ripping off the health service would not be tolerated.

Its reporting line took the anonymous tip- off that an ornate staircase had gone missing from an old building at Airedale trust in Yorkshire and the matter was being 'treated seriously' by the counter-fraud operational service.

Discrete enquiries were made over a period of several weeks, but it was leading nowhere. The trust was alerted.

But eventually all that emerged was that a trust building containing a 'grand wooden staircase' had been sold off.

The building company had subsequently had a break-in and stair spindles had gone missing.

The case was closed. Sadly, the HSJ exclusive was off. The mystery of the missing staircase was over.

NHS fraud and corruption reporting line:08702-400 100.