A woman and her partner are “devastated” after their life-sized figures of comics Laurel and Hardy have been stolen from outside their home for a fourth time in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Footage filmed by cameras on the house shows a van driving past the property just after 3am.
A short while later a man, who appears to be wearing two surgical masks on his forehead and around his mouth and nose, climbs over a wall connecting Ms Haylett’s and her neighbour’s property.
He lifts up Hardy and pushes him over the wall before returning to collect Laurel and also pushing him over the wall.
Lesley Haylett, 61, bought the 6ft figures for her partner Peter from a plumbers shop in Manor Park, east London, 40 years ago.
He originally displayed them in a car showroom where he worked and brought them home to Romford 35 years ago after he left the business.
This is not the first time the statues were stolen. They were returned in 2018 after being taken three years earlier in 2015.
The man in the footage is believed to be about 5ft 8 with fair hair, Ms Haylett said.
“We’ve had them so long they’re just part of the family now...we’re gutted, really gutted,” said Ms Haylett, shocked they have been stolen once again.
They’re a part of the community. I never dreamed it would happen again.
“Last time they were chained down, but we’ve been moving them around the garden so they’ve had really heavy marble slabs on top of them instead.”
Each year, Ms Haylett creates a Christmas display with the fibreglass statues to raise money for charities including Great Ormond Street Hospital. She believes around £3,000 has been raised each year.
Hairdresser Ms Haylett said her husband was “absolutely devastated” as he has leukaemia and is in hospital for a bone marrow transplant. “If he wasn’t in hospital, he’d be out there looking for them.
“When they were last nicked someone kept sending us postcards and Christmas cards from Laurel and Hardy saying ‘We’re having a great time, missing you guys, hope to be home soon’.”
Three years later, a man knocked on the door saying he’d found Laurel and Hardy at the bottom of a field.
Comedy duo Laurel and Hardy were were known for slapstick comedy short films from the 1920s to 1940s.
Metropolitan Police said they have received a report of theft from outside an address in Romford. The incident is alleged to have occurred in the early hours of Thursday July 22.
Anyone with any information should call the police on 101.
Includes reporting by PA