Heartless thieves have targeted Santa?s grotto to steal a two feet long shiny electric train.
The brazen crooks walked out of Stewarts Gardenlands in Christchurch with one of two Thomas the Tank Engine trains which have been entertaining children in the grotto in the run-up to Christmas.
James, a bright red engine, has a carriage with a coal skuttle and Christmas manager Susie Stewart said the engine must have been difficult to hide.
?It is far too big to have been concealed in a bag or pocket or underneath a coat,? she said. ?I think it must have been put underneath a pram or a pushchair.?
Susie said elves working in the grotto discovered James was missing at closing time on Friday December 6.
?At first they thought he must have been knocked off the tracks accidentally by a child,? said Susie.
?When they looked for him they realised he had been stolen ? everyone who works in the grotto is gutted that someone has done this. I never thought in a million years that someone would steal from a grotto.?
Stewarts? grotto is one of the most popular in the area with hundreds of children through its doors every year. The centre also had real reindeer to delight visiting youngsters.
Police have been informed of the theft and anyone with information about James? whereabouts is asked to call?Dorset Police?on 101 or the free and anonymous Crimestoppers line on 0800 555 111.