Politics

Serial gnome thief that rattled sleepy village


It’s been 45 years since a Merseyside town was first gripped by a notorious crime spree.

During the winter of 1976 and early 1977, the quiet seaside village of Formby saw national media coverage flood the town as police were puzzled by a wave of crime that shook the village.

A serial gnome thief hit the village, prompting TV stations and newspaper reporters to descend on the area in an attempt to get a scoop on the mysterious crimes.

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The first of the gnome disappearances took place on Gardner Road where the Tinnion family of four was subjected to what the BBC described as a “tormented kidnapping”.

It was this “tormented kidnapping” that led to a ransom note being sent to the Tinnion family, asking them to pay a fee if they wanted to see their family gnome again.

The family’s young son, Gary, was the first one to notice that something wasn’t right.

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The family had returned home from shopping to their garden gnome, Fred, missing. One of Fred’s legs had been left behind.

The ransom note delivered to the home said: “Your gnome has 72 hours to live unless you wrap up 25p and leave it at the car park of Safeway near to the bowling green.

“Then go away and await further instructions. This is no hoax.”

Young Gary quickly rushed to his piggy bank, scouring for 25p, in the hope that he could raise the funds to keep Fred alive.

This was when news began to surface that this wasn’t the only kidnapping.

Just a mile away Mrs Cooper had come home to find her own ransom note for two of her gnomes. Her ransom note was almost identical to the one issued to the Tinnion family.

It said: “if you want to see your gnomes again put 25p under the roundabout in the park and this is no hoax.”

The situation was so serious there was talk of a vigilante group in the village, aptly named the “gnome guard”.

The mysterious crimes then took an unexpected turn as all the previously stolen garden gnomes were returned to their homes overnight.

45 years later the crimes are still unsolved.

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