By SHAUN MILNE
THIRTY garden gnomes kidnapped by thieves have been rescued by police in a night-time raid involving more than a dozen detectives.
Eighteen officers from Lothian and Borders Police seized the gnomes and recovered 160 other stolen garden ornaments from three homes in the Woodburn area of Dalkeith.
The haul included a large wooden elephant, plastic penguin, 12 deck chairs, Hawaiian style parasols along with lawn mowers, strimmers and other items.
Cops were called in by local residents who complained that their neighbours gardens were being “decorated like Christmas trees”.
The raid – on July 29 – is thought to have netted around £1000 of stolen gear and seen five men and two women aged 16 and 47 quizzed over the thefts.
The suspects – all believed to be from the same family – have since been released pending further inquiries after police seized the property which was on display outside the houses.
Now detectives are appealing for the rightful owners to contact them to be reunited with the knocked off gnomes.
Inspector John McGill said: “If the goods are stolen it’s amazing the thieves had the audacity to put them into their gardens.
“We suspect the majority were stolen sometime within the past three months as we have experienced an increase in the number of garden thefts reported.”
“Some of the items such as an oriental bird table and the ornamental Mexican figure are very distinctive so we are hoping the original owners will come and claim them.”
He said homes around miles away from Dalkeith appear to have been targeted so no-one would recognise the items when on display.
But Inspector McGill warned stealing gnomes was no laughing matter.
He said: “This incident may seem to be on the amusing side and nicking gnomes may appear a bit daft, but there is a serious message behind it – theft will never be tolerated.”
An officer from Midlothian Community Action Team has now also been dedicated to reuniting owners with their lost property.
Spokesman Paul Aitken said: “It looks like we have found eight or nine people who own at least one thing from the collection.”
He added: “We are hoping to stop this sort of behaviour as part of an anti-social behaviour action plan.”