A pair of life-size statues of Laurel and Hardy have been found almost a year after they were stolen.
Lesley Haylett, 62, and her partner Peter Elliott, 72, were devastated after the 6ft figures were taken outside their home in Romford, London, for the fourth time last July.
Mr Elliott, who was gifted the statues by Haylett more than 40 years ago, was in hospital receiving a bone marrow transplant when they were stolen.
Haylett said Laurel and Hardy were found by police on July 15 in a garage — almost exactly a year after they disappeared — but she was not told by officers exactly where they were found.
She told the PA news agency: “I just couldn’t believe it when the police told me they had found them, especially when they disappeared on the day Pete went in for a bone marrow transplant.
– It was pure nonsense that the police found them. They were searching when they found them under a blue tarp in a locked garage.
“They told me that one of the officers, Pc Jo McCarthy, recognized them and said: ‘It’s Laurel and Hardy, they’ve been stolen’.”
As part of the campaign to find the statues, business owner Dean Floyd had offered a £5,000 reward – which he then increased to £10,000 – to try to encourage someone to come forward.
Haylett said: “Pete couldn’t believe it when I told him they had been found – he was very, very pleased.
“We really thought they were gone. Especially when Dean increased the reward to £10,000 and no one came forward. That’s a lot of money, and I really thought someone would call and say, ‘Oh, my buddy has them in his garage.’
“So Pete is over the moon, he really is. He couldn’t believe they were back. I can’t believe they’re back.”
Haylett added that she was very grateful to the police, particularly Pc McCarthy, for finding them.
The fiberglass statues have been stolen several times over the years and were most recently returned in 2018 after being taken three years earlier in 2015.
Haylett said the statues are well-known in the area as they have been part of an elaborate Christmas display the couple has put on annually for charity for the past 36 years.
She added that Laurel and Hardy will return to their rightful place in the show this Christmas after being missing from last year’s.
Mr Floyd, who offered the reward on behalf of his construction company Chigwell Group, said: “I am absolutely over the moon that the Laurel and Hardy statues have now been returned to their rightful owners.
“When I was told of the theft, I acted immediately to offer a £10,000 reward for their safe return, but when no information came forward, like many others, feared they would never be seen again.
“So we were as surprised and delighted as anyone to hear that the boys had been found and will soon be back and again playing a central role in some of the community’s fundraising activities.”
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said: “The statues were recovered as part of a search in relation to a separate police investigation. We are delighted to have been able to reunite Laurel and Hardy with their owner.”
Comedy duo Laurel and Hardy were famous for slapstick comedy shorts from the 1920s to the 1940s.