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Gran is shocked by theft of her tortoises.

A devastated grandma fears "rustlers" have stolen her 13 tortoises after she woke to find them missing from her Teesside home.

Brenda Robinson, 60, believes thieves targeted her Great Ayton home because of the value of her pets.

Describing the moment when she realised her pets had disappeared yesterday, the grandmother-of-six said: "I was just going to go down into the village and looked out the window and saw none of the tortoises were in the garden.

"So I went outside to the shed where they go at night, but there was no one there either and the first thing I thought was they had been pinched.

"I think they have been rustled, people know how much they cost and they came and took them to sell on."

Describing the appeal of the animals, which live to more than 100 years, she said: "I had my first tortoise when I was little, everyone had them then and I just love them.

"They don't want people and you can't play with them like cats or dogs, but I like to watch them in the garden"

Animal welfare experts confirmed the value of tortoises can make them targets for thieves.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said: "You can pay several hundred pounds to buy a tortoise and we would ask people to keep their eyes and ears open.

"If anyone attempts to sell them a tortoise they should get in contact with police - it is a sad state of affairs when animals can be stolen from under someone's nose."

A North Yorkshire police spokesman confirmed officers were following up reports of 13 stolen tortoises from Great Ayton.

* Anyone with information should contact Northallerton police on 01609 783131.
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jul 2, 2004
Words:283
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