The riddle of a runaway gnome named Charlie Cello has finally ended after he came home to roost. But the stone figure's return was just as dramatic as his sight-seeing trip - and ended with him behind bars.
Charlie left his "mum" Jan Openshaw of Lammack Road, Blackburn, more than three months ago. And ever since postcards have been arriving arriving on the doorstep of her home from such far-flung destinations as Gran Canaria, Disney Land and Cyprus.
Mrs Openshaw said the disappearance might have been sparked by someone copying the gnome-napping story on Coronation Street. But yesterday Jan, 52, received a telephone call at home to say the little fellow was behind bars at Great Harwood police station. She said: "I couldn't believe it when I took the phone call from the police station so I asked for their number to return the call. "When I rang back I discovered it was true - Charlie was behind bars in Great Harwood. "I went to the station to collect him and he was in one of the cells. "I just think it is such a laugh."
When Mrs Openshaw went to the station to collect Charlie he was in a box with a new one inch friend and one last postcard. She added: "There was a riddle on the card which hid the identity of the person behind the scam. "But my husband sat up until almost midnight and eventually worked it out. "It was my daughter and all the people at Gaskell Carpets in Rishton where she works. All the reps were in on it."
A spokesman for the police at Great Harwood confirmed that somebody answering Charlie's description had been held for questioning and then released. He said: "I cannot reveal the details surrounding his arrest, they are a state secret. But we had to let him go - he was eating us out of house and gnome!"
First published in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph on Monday 23 October 1995.