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GNOME ALONE! Thieves take couple's prized garden ornaments.

Byline: RACHAEL MISSTEAR

A GNOME-LOVING couple are longing for a fairytale ending after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were snatched from their garden.

The bespoke pint-sized characters were among three-dozen ornaments taken from Hugh and Joan Barrington's home in Tresaith, near Cardigan.

And the couple say the meticulous heist - which saw thieves evade sensor-operated CCTV cameras set up to monitor their collection - has made them determined to beef up security to protect their remaining figures in the back garden.

Joan, 64, and 74-year-old Hugh say the incident has left them shaken and hope that with the help of local residents and police, the thieves could be caught.

Because the culprits managed to get past the security cameras, police believe the theft was planned.

The ornaments, with an estimated value of hundreds of pounds, were amassed over a period of 30 years by the couple and have moved with them from house to house.

Some of the characters have been presents from friends, children and grandchildren over the decades.

They included a set of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, bought in Blackpool 25 years ago for pounds 30. One of the couple's particular favourites, a girl sitting on a bench reading a book, was also taken. Only one figure from the front garden remains after the overnight raid between March 2 and 3. "I went outside and found one gnome just left rolling in the pathway," said Joan.

"I wondered how it had ended up there so went to investigate. I was totally floored when I went to the front of the garden and found the lot had disappeared. I was speechless."

The disappearance has sparked questions as to where the gnomes may reappear and friends are now monitoring car boot sales and even logging on to eBay to see if they can find the kidnapped creatures.

"We even wondered if it might be a prank, but no one would take almost 40 ornaments as a prank," added Joan.

In 2008, the adventures of Murphy the gnome hit national headlines when, after being "stolen" from his Gloucester home, he reappeared almost a year later.

His owners were shocked to find him with a leather-bound photo album illustrating his globe trotting trip to some of the world's most fascinating tourist destinations. Murphy, who ironically was named "Barrington" by his mysterious travel companion, was pictured at the Great Barrier Reef, scaling a glacier in New Zealand and at the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat.

The 48 pictures of the gnome showed him in Mozambique, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and Laos.

They were accompanied by a note putting his impromptu world tour down to "itchy feet". That prank mirrored a Coronation Street plot which saw a gnome belonging to Mavis and Derek Wilton being "kidnapped" in similar exotic circumstances.

For the Barringtons, they fear the fate of their cherished characters might not be so glamorous.

The couple, who moved from Lancashire 12 years ago, said the gnomes were an attraction for passing holidaymakers.

"We have always enjoyed having the gnomes because lots of people would stop with their children and have a chat," Joan added. "Many would come in and have a look at them in more detail.

"This has made us a bit jumpy. Now every time we hear something go bump in the night we jump up to see what is going on.

"You can't help wonder if whoever took them might try their hand again."

Police have confirmed they are investigating the theft and have asked anyone with information to contact 101.

For Joan, she is remaining optimistic there will be a happy ever after. "We are only pensioners but we are offering a cash reward for the return of the gnomes. We just want them back here where they belong."

CAPTION(S):

Gnome ornaments in the garden of Hugh and Joan Barrington before their theft in the Pembrokeshire village of Tresaith Hugh and Joan Barrington with one remaining Gnome ornament after over 30 were stolen from their front garden
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 8, 2012
Words:677
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