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Tortoise fiend causes upset

PUBLISHED: 17:58 26 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:27 12 August 2010

OWNERS of a pet tortoise, one of three stolen over the weekend, are offering a £1,000 reward for its return.

OWNERS of a pet tortoise, one of three stolen over the weekend, are offering a £1,000 reward for its return.

Eighty-year-old Michelle vanished on Saturday from her special run at Christmas Tree Farm in Downe. On the same day, two other tortoises were taken from a garden in Oakdene Road, St Mary Cray.

Farm owners Harry Barritt and wife Eleanor have had Michelle for 70 years, after Mr Barritt's grandfather bought it.

He said: "We can't imagine life without her. My wife is absolutely distraught and has been in tears over this.

"We invite people to come round our farm to see the animals then they go and do something like this.

"Someone must know something and hopefully they will have a guilty conscience and bring Michelle back again.

"But we won't ask any questions. We just want her back!"

Farm manager Paul Gubby added: "It's terrible. It is a pet and has been in the family for 70 years. It really is part of the family. It's hard to believe really."

On Saturday night, tortoises Boring and Diedre were stolen from a run in a garden. Their owner, a 67-year-old woman who does not want to be named, said: "I just hope whoever has taken them will put them back in their pen and there will be no questions asked."

Tortoises, which can live to be more than 100 years old, can fetch up to £6,000 each on the black market. Thefts have risen since last year and have been linked to a change which has seen some tortoises given greater protection as endangered animals by the UN.

If they are bigger than 10cm in length, tortoises must be micro chipped and cannot be sold without proof that they were bred in captivity.

If anyone has any information about either theft, they should contact Bromley Police on 01689 891212.

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