A sinister ransom note, a picture of the hostage with a kitchen knife placed menacingly against his throat and a threat of worse to come.
It may sound like a plot for a Hollywood blockbuster but in reality it is a mystery Lorraine Dearing found herself trying to solve after her beloved garden gnome Norman was taken from the front garden of her home in Greenmeadow near Swindon, Wiltshire.
The ornament had taken pride of place among other features, including a meerkat, singing birds and a water fountain, but when Lorraine, 49, came home after work on Tuesday she found the picture and a scrawled note on blue card which said if she was to see Norman again she would have to hand over a ransom of £10.
The note read: “Unless you want him beheaded you need to leave 1,000p outside by Friday, July 20. I know you wouldn’t want this to happen so listen to me. Leave the money in your beautiful hanging baskets! If it’s not there then you don’t want to know what will happen to them!”
Lorraine said: “I just want him back and I don’t know what to do. To be honest I didn’t even notice he’d gone until I got home and saw the note – it was in among the other post and when I saw it I burst out laughing. I don’t know who would do something like this. I don’t recognise the handwriting and I don’t think my neighbours would do it. But I don’t like the thought of someone taking him.
“We have loads of ornaments in the front garden but he was on his own in a different part. I probably got him two years ago and I remember the wind knocked him over once and broke his hand. I couldn’t bare to see him like that so I glued his hand back on.”
Lorraine said she has not reported the incident to police, was not prepared to negotiate with the hostage takers and hoped he would be returned unharmed.
“I’m not paying the ransom – I probably only paid a fiver for him,” she said. “I’m just hoping whoever it is has the heart to return him to me.”