Happy left gnome alone as garden thieves strike

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The Independent Online
It would be a sick and twisted mind that could ever accuse Happy of feeling Grumpy but this Christmas the fairytale dwarf could be forgiven for at least feeling miserable.

The 12-inch high gnome has been abandoned by Snow White and the other dwarves in a compelling disappearance act that has left police baffled and a Cheshire family grief-stricken.

Statuettes of Snow White, Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey, Sneezy, Doc and Bashful went missing from the front garden of the Connor family home in Macclesfield last week. Wrecking the family's plans for a happy Christmas, the runaways then sent a card which read: "Missing you all at home, from Snow White and her six friends."

The problem for the Connors is that the card made no mention of whether the disappearance was voluntary - there is a shortage of panto characters in Cheshire this year - or whether they were kidnapped.

"At this stage, we just don't know, but I am hoping they will come home in time for Christmas," said David Connor, 44. "If you're reading this Snow White and the boys - please come home soon. We've re-named Happy, Lonely."

Helen Connor, 40, bought the gnomes 12 years ago for her daughter, Sharon. Yesterday, Mrs Connor was taking the disappearance personally. "Obviously they thought they could get a better Christmas dinner somewhere else," she said. "At least Happy has stuck by me.

Cheshire constabulary said they were concerned that the dwarves might have been taken against their will. The arrival of the card almost caused a major incident room to be set up. "We thought it was a ransom note at first," said spokeswoman Brenda Cowling. "We're ho-ho-hoping they come back under their own steam."

The disappearance - and the police's willingness to join in the fun surrounding it - demonstrates an apparent lack of more serious crime over the holiday period. Many forces are reporting a quieter time than usual.

"Our crime press phone line is so empty that we've had to fill it with Christmas carols," said Ms Cowling. "At the moment, we're running - well, it had to be - `Blue, Blue Christmas'."

If past form is anything to go by, the Connors can expect to receive many more cards from the missing gnomes. During the 1980s, there was a spate of gnome disappearances which were usually followed by postcards sent from around the world as the thieves visited various holiday destinations and wrote back as the missing gnomes.

On one occasion, however, the episode had a happy ending when the prodigal gnome returned, his face painted a tanned brown and a little suitcase, resplendent in stickers from around the world, stuck to his tiny little hand.

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