Monday, June 16, 2008

Crime Blotter

Years ago, when my husband and I were avid cyclists, I became fascinated by lawn ornaments -- mirrored balls, lawn jockeys, frogs fishing, little Dutch children holding hands, cartoon characters, and yes, the cutout of the lady's backside, bloomers showing, bending down to weed her garden. The more modest the dwelling, the more elaborate the display. We haven't spent a lot of time in the countryside here, so I can't comment personally on the state of French lawn garnish. Thanks to my alert husband, this little item (appearing below in its entirety) cropped up on the Web site of the German media outlet, Der Spiegel:

French Police Arrest Serial Garden Gnome Thief

Police in Bretagne have arrested a 53-year-old man suspected of the thefts of 170 garden gnomes. However, it is proving difficult to return the gnomes to their real owners -- the thief painted them different colors, making identification tricky.

When garden gnomes go missing in France, most are tempted to blame the shadowy Garden Gnome Liberation Front. The group has been linked to the disappearance of dozens of miniature garden residents over the years.

Not this time, however. Some 170 gnomes and other ornaments have been stolen in the north-western region of Bretagne recently. And it appears to be the work of a serial garden gnome thief acting on his own.

Police in the town of Mauron announced Tuesday that they had arrested a 53-year-old man on suspicion of stealing the gnomes. Investigators found around 170 stolen garden gnomes, deer figurines and other figures on the man's property. The entire hoard was exhibited in the suspect's garden, a mere 20 square meters (215 square feet) in size. Police described it as "a real mise en scène on green-painted stones."

After the case was reported in the local press, police were inundated by telephone calls from dozens of local residents hoping to get back missing gnomes which they presumed had been stolen. However, local gendarmes admitted it was proving hard to return the abducted gnomes to their true owners -- the purported gnome-snatcher had apparently re-painted some of the gnomes, making identification difficult.

The suspected thief could face a prison sentence for the mass gnome theft. "The case is almost laughable, but it is theft," local police officer Eric Le Roch told the news agency AFP.

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