Home at last, Murphy the garden gnome who conquered the world

KIDNAPPING garden gnomes and whisking them off to exotic locations, then posting back pictures of their adventure, is a common practical joke.

Now, a prankster has taken the jape to a whole new level – returning the ornament with an album of 48 photographs from 12 far-flung locations.

In a replica of a scene from the hit French film Amelie, Eve Stuart-Kelso was astonished to find Murphy the leprechaun standing on the doorstep of her Gloucester home – seven months after he disappeared.

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The slightly careworn figurine was bearing a note, in which he blamed his absence on "itchy feet," and the astonishing record of his journey.

Murphy had been swimming with turtles off the Great Barrier Reef, scaled a glacier in New Zealand and toured the ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Cynics may wonder if the pictures are the product of digital wizardry, but Andy O'Brien, picture editor of The Scotsman, is convinced they are genuine holiday snaps. "These pictures look like common or garden snaps to me. I can't see any evidence of photoshop trickery," he said.

In the note, the gnome, whose travelling companion is referred to only as The Bear, claims he attracted unwanted attention from customs officials and took up 25 per cent of his party's luggage allocation.

It also explained his travelling companions had renamed him Barrington.

Also with him were immigration stamps for all the places he had been – South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and Laos.

The bizarre crime echoes the film starring Audrey Tautou, in which a gnome belonging to Amelie's father is taken around the world and photographed to show him how much he is missing out on in life.

Mrs Stuart-Kelso said Murphy had not escaped unscathed. "His feet were missing, but that's no surprise, given that he was sent abseiling down a mountain."


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THEY may now be considered kitsch garden ornaments, but the origin of gnomes stretches back over the centuries.

A German invention, the figures were used to bring good fortune. It is thought they depicted labourers who were said to have arrived from Crete in 1,500BC to dig for gold and silver.

Gnomes were first introduced to Britain by Sir Charles Isham in 1849, when he brought about 20 small figurines from Germany and placed them in a rockery.

However, the painted gnome we now know was created by the Germans towards the end of the 19th century, when there was a large ceramic industry producing household and garden ornaments.