Pranksters who pinched a life-size statue of Elvis from a garden in East Devon have returned him after a month of leaving his fans ‘all a shook up’ with ‘suspicious minds’.
Semi-retired Roger Helyar’s statue was stolen from his Cranbrook front garden at the start of May, when he and his wife were away.
This week the statue returned slightly worse for wear to its rightful place, in Roger’s Younghayes Road porch, after dog walkers spotted it abandoned near a park bench in Cranbrook.
Roger, a counsellor and therapist, said: “A lady looking out of her window, and several early morning dog walkers, alerted my neighbour who had been monitoring Cranbrook’s Facebook page for me as to where Elvis had been left overnight.
“Together with another neighbour and a sack truck, I went to retrieve him and bring him back home.”
Lifelong musician Roger thanked the Cranbrook community who kept the hunt alive in a bid to bring Elvis home.
He said: “I am thrilled to have Elvis back although there is some damaged paintwork. And of course, his guitar hasn’t been tuned for four weeks.”
Roger added: “People of Cranbrook have signaled their pleasure and relief to seeing him back where he belongs by hooting their car horns and waving when myself and my wife have been in the garden with Elvis.”
Roger urged whoever took his statue to treat others with kindness.
He said: “My message to the pranksters is I’m glad they left Elvis where he would be found. But will you think first before you take anything else from others?
“It causes a lot of worry and anxiety: just imagine how you would feel if someone stole something of yours.
“He added: “Let’s do positive and helpful things for each other at Cranbrook.”
Roger said he plans to host a Welcome Home Elvis barbecue now the statue has returned.
“I am very grateful to my neighbour for keeping me up to date with the Facebook postings and for all the emails and texts I’ve received,” Roger said. “I’m being encouraged to host a Welcome Home Elvis barbecue this summer – I’m sure this can be arranged with some help to put up the marquees.”
When the statue first went missing, a social media page appeared showing photographs of taunting masked culprits alongside Roger’s missing Elvis.
The page was swiftly removed after the Cranbrook community rallied to help trace the statue and identify the culprits.
Roger called for the return of his property:” A joke’s a joke,” he said. “They have had their fun and now it’s time to return it.”
He urged whoever had the Elvis statue to leave it somewhere for collection, or contact him anonymously to flag its whereabouts.
He said the statue had become a local landmark since he moved it from the staircase inside his Younghayes Road home to the front porch outside.
Roger said the statue helped visitors navigate their way around Cranbrook.
He said: “I like sharing and as I’ve discovered, many people in Cranbrook have come to enjoy seeing Elvis at the roundabout. So, I am taking a philosophical and pragmatic approach about this theft.”
He said people had been missing their turn-off – not know whether to turn right or left at the roundabout.
Last week Roger revealed he had been ‘encouraged’ by the efforts of children living in Cranbrook who collected cash from neighbours in the hope of buying a replacement statue.
Roger said: “They set up fundraising for another Elvis. That’s really amazing. That’s the real spirit of Cranbrook that people want to foster, which is why we were all so annoyed about what happened.”
Roger said a previous drunken prank had resulted in the statue disappearing from outside his home, but it was returned the next day.
The joke prompted the move to chain the statue to a metal seat outside Roger’s home.
“They said Elvis felt a lot heavier than he did the night before,” said Roger. “I can shift it in my garden a few yards in my garden but not carry it any distance. You would need a couple of strong men to take it any distance.
“Anybody trying to move it would have to move the chair then take it. They would need minimum of three people to take it, and they would need a van.”
Roger, who cut his first record at the age of 12, bought the Elvis statue in Bovey Tracey 20 years ago for ‘a reasonable sum of money’.
When he moved to Cranbrook, he initially kept the statue inside, but moved it to the front porch around two years ago to make more space.
The Elvis statue was stolen sometime between May 5 and 8, when Roger and his wife were away.
Shortly after, a Facebook account with the name The Cranbrook Bird Box Bandits posted photos of Roger’s statue next to a masked person in what was believed to be a brick-built garage.
Another posed photo shows a masked and hooded person, wearing all black clothing, standing with Roger’s statue in front of a tropical backdrop of palm trees.
The page and posts have since been removed from the social media platform.
The sightings prompted Roger to circulate an appeal for information in a bid his statue could be nearby and returned.
Neighbours believe youths stole the statue as a prank and were using it to gain publicity and notoriety on social media.
A Devon and Cornwall Police spokesperson said: “Police were informed on Monday 8 May of reports of theft of a statue from a garden in Cranbrook.
“The local Neighbourhood Team were informed.
“At this time, there are no viable lines of enquiry, and the report is being held on file but, if further evidence comes to light, a further review may take place.”
To help the police enquiry, call 101 with information and quote crime reference 502 301 362 09.