AN eight-year-old girl was heartbroken after a scarecrow she helped make for a village competition was apparently vandalised and then mistakenly taken away by bin men.
Isabella Baker and her parents Penny and Matthew painstakingly put together a papier mache tribute to her favourite film, Cool Runnings, which tells the story of the Jamaican bobsleigh team’s competition debut at the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Having placed it outside their home in Elizabeth Crescent, Hordle, it had gained admiring glances ahead of the scarecrow contest at the village fete next weekend.
But New Forest District Council has now admitted it was disposed of by refuse collectors on their rounds, seemingly after vandals had prised it out of the ground and broken it before it was put on top of the bin bags.
NFDC has apologised for the mistake, but defended its staff.
Bob Norley, from the Hordle and District Twinning Association which organises the scarecrow competition, said: “This is the first time we’ve had anything like this happen in the 10 years we’ve been doing the scarecrow competition. It’s rather disappointing to say the least.
“Please stop what you are doing,” he said in a direct appeal to the culprits – adding he knew of another scarecrow that was also targeted.
“There is a lot of effort going into making these scarecrows and lots of people in the village enjoy seeing them,” he added.
Speaking to the A&T, mum Penny said Isabella was left in tears and unable to sleep by the disappearance of their scarecrow.
“She’s really upset,” she said. “She’s even put up a notice on our window telling anyone who come to look at it outside our house that she’s really sorry but it’s gone.”
Penny said the scarecrow was secure when she left home on Tuesday morning in last week but it had gone when she returned by early afternoon.
“It’s incredibly perplexing as to why the bin men did take it,” Penny said. “I don’t know what to believe. The ironic thing is when you usually put something out for the bin men if it does not comply with their rules 100%, such as it’s in the wrong bag or something, they do not take it.
“Yet they do not question taking a huge bobsleigh.”
Penny said the family had spent many hours making the scarecrow for the event, which they have entered for the past two years.
Finding it had gone was a shock, she added.
“When we got home there were people who had come to see it and could not understand where it was – immediately I thought it could be the bin men.
She said she phoned NFDC to complain and council officers viewed CCTV from their refuse trucks. The footage showed operatives gather the rubbish bags outside the Baker’s property and pile them to be collected by the truck when it arrived, Penny said.
“The lady [from NFDC] told me that when the second crew came round and, this is her words: somebody had maliciously put the bobsleigh on top of the bin bags – and therefore they threw it away”, Penny added.
A spokeswoman for NFDC said: “We were really sad to hear about, what appears to be, vandalism of this scarecrow as it is obvious from the pictures we have seen what a great scarecrow it was.
“Yes, our refuse collectors did take what we now know to be the bobsleigh along with the rubbish as it was on a pile of sacks in a damaged state, so they understandably thought it was to be collected.
“We understand this is not the only scarecrow to have been vandalised. We have spoken with the Bakers this morning to explain and gave our apologies.”
She added: “Unfortunately the crew thought nothing of it at the time, so we hope whoever vandalised it comes forward.”
Mr Norley said he was “very sorry” for the Baker family, adding: “They have exhibited for the past few years and we well know a lot of effort goes into making the scarecrows.
“Their scarecrow will still be included in the competition – we have judges who go round and take pictures of the entries when they first go up and I personally went and photographed the Baker’s Cool Runnings entry before it disappeared.”
On Facebook villagers were furious at the apparent vandalism.
One branded it “very disappointing”, while another said she no longer put up scarecrows anymore because of it. Another commented: “It’s such a shame that the few young people that vandalised them are tarnishing the name of all the lovely local children.”