A Mysterious duck thief has been branded “disgusting” after stealing beloved family pet Tufty.
They had become the best of friends, forging a bond which owner Jennifer Bell hoped would last for many years.
But the 18-year-old has been left devastated after her beloved pet duck – Tufty – was snatched by a thief in the middle of the night.
The hunt is now on to return the bird to its rightful home – a farm where 25 other ducks have also been mysteriously stolen in the last five years.
“This is absolutely shocking, and we’re getting fed up,” said Lavinia Thornley, 43, a family friend who owns the farm in Bilston where Tufty usually lives.
“I have no idea what kind of person goes around stealing ducks, and to be honest, I doubt we’ll ever find out who’s doing it. But it really is disgusting. All we want is to see Tufty returned home safe.”
The white crested bird was gifted to Jennifer by Lavinia six months ago as a tiny duckling, and she has since been raising her at the Midlothian farm.
Earlier this month Lavinia said she “thought she was dreaming” when she went downstairs for a glass of water in the night, only to see a silhouette stalking through her garden.
Although Lavinia was able to frighten the intruder away before phoning the police, they were able to grab hold of Tufty as they made their getaway.
The mum, who lives on the Button Stable farm with her teenage son, said: “This has happened to us three times in the past five years. The first time they took 16 ducks, then they came back not two weeks later and stole another nine ducks.”
At that time, police believed the ducks may have been stolen for sale, as they were of a popular breed valued at about £50 apiece. None of the birds were ever returned.
Rob Duncan, a former poultry breeder from Kirknewton, said the trade is riddled with tales similar to Lavinia’s.
He said: “This has been a real problem in the past, especially when duck prices have gone sky-high.
“There were quite a few cases of birds getting stolen and resold at the poultry markets that travel up and down the country every couple of weeks.
“Unfortunately, there’s actually quite a market for it.”
After the first two thefts, the Thornleys decided to invest over £2000 in CCTV equipment.
But basket weaver Lavinia said the security system had failed to deter would-be poachers from the farm.
She said: “If I hadn’t scared them away this time around, I’m sure they would have taken every single duck that we’ve got left.”
Lavinia has asked local residents to be on the lookout for Tufty, who boasts a distinctive feathery crown.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman confirmed officers had been called out to investigate a theft from the Bilston farm.
She added: “Inquiries are ongoing but anyone with information should contact Police Scotland on 101.”