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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 15:09 GMT 16:09 UK
Gnome 'kidnapper' avoids prison
Garden gnomes
A total of 132 garden ornaments were recovered
A woman who ran a racket "kidnapping" garden gnomes has escaped jail after a sheriff heard she helped police reunite the garden ornaments with their owners.

Karen Stenhouse took gnomes, flower pots and ornaments worth more than 700 from gardens all over Central Scotland during a three week period in 2005.

She then sold them on through car boot sales to boost her dole money.

Stenhouse, of Tullibody, Clackmannanshire admitted six charges of stealing ornaments in court.

The thefts occurred in Alva, Tullibody, Stirling and Bridge of Allan between 24 July and 16 August 2005.

It has been very difficult for her since her story came out in the papers
Solicitor Stan Quirk

On Thursday, Sheriff David Mackie admonished Stenhouse but fined her 100 in respect of a charge of obtaining goods by fraud from a catalogue clothing company.

Alloa Sheriff Court heard that Stenhouse had immediately agreed to make amends when she was arrested.

Prosecutor Malcolm McBain told the court: "She agreed to accompany police to areas where she had carried out many thefts.

"The police carried out a media campaign and other victims came forward. They had their property returned."

Her solicitor, Stan Quirk, said the thefts had been carried out at a time which could only be described as one of "deep personal turmoil" for Stenhouse.

He said "an incident", which he did not explain, had taken place a month before and had made her "irrational".

"It has been very difficult for her since her story came out in the papers," he added.

"She has asked me to state her deepest remorse and regret."

Undercover operation

Sheriff Mackie said he had taken into account the fact that the thefts had been carried out at a time of "devastating emotional distress".

"They were clumsy offences and at least some of the items have been returned," he said.

The court previously heard that the mother-of-three was arrested along with friend Ann McCallum, also of Tullibody, following an 11-day undercover operation involving officers from both Central Scotland CID and the force's tactical crime unit.

Officers found an "Aladdin's cave" of garden ornaments including a grotto of 30 gnomes as well as dozens of ornamental rabbits, birds and hedgehogs.

The court was told a total of 132 garden ornaments were recovered but only a handful were able to be reunited with their rightful owners.

Both Stenhouse and Ms McCallum were originally charged with 42 separate offences of theft.

Ms McCallum said nothing in response to police questioning and her pleas of not guilty were accepted.

One of Stenhouse's victims, who asked not to be named, said after the case: "I lost a little old man smoking a pipe and an old lady with a barrow.

"What gave me the creeps was that someone was so close to the house. She would have had to come right up our path to steal them."




SEE ALSO
Woman faces jail over gnome theft
27 Mar 07 |  Tayside and Central
Police find missing gnomes cache
24 Aug 05 |  Scotland

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