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‘Please return the reindeer’ – Outpouring of support for owner of vandalised Christmas display redeems faith in festive season

PUBLISHED: 18:05 20 December 2017 | UPDATED: 18:05 20 December 2017

Guy Hayward next to his festive display where the reindeer were stolen from.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Guy Hayward next to his festive display where the reindeer were stolen from. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The creator of a festive display was so angered by the theft of model reindeer that he considered closing the grotto for good – but an outpouring of support redeemed his faith in the season of goodwill.

Guy Hayward has set up a Christmas display on his land near Wickham Market for each of the past seven years.

But on Sunday morning he was shocked to discover thieves had made off with two of the model reindeer, They had also vandalised the lights display and damaged the Santa Claus he had created for the first time.

“I couldn’t believe it when I first saw it,” he said, “I just thought, it’s such a crazy thing for someone to do and I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to steal the reindeer. It’s all for the children and for Christmas. Other stuff gets stolen and you just have to accept it, but this was too much.”

Mr Hayward made a post about the theft on the Facebook page for the Oliver Hayward Playbarn - a play centre and cafe he opened in 2015 in memory of two of his children – and was inundated with positive messages.

Mr Hayward has created a festive display for each of the past seven years.  Picture:SARAH LUCY BROWNMr Hayward has created a festive display for each of the past seven years. Picture:SARAH LUCY BROWN

People commenting said they were “speechless” to learn of the theft, which was described as “despicable”, “disgusting” and “awful”. Many others commented about how much they and their children loved the display and how “amazing” it looked.

The playbarn is in a prominent location near to the B1116/B1078 roundabout, just off the A12, and is passed by hundreds of motorists every day.

Mr Hayward said the response to his post restored his faith in the festive season and encouraged him to continue with the display.

“I didn’t realise until I saw the comments on Facebook, just how many people love to see the display, which for some seems to mark the start of Christmas,” he said. “When I first saw the damage I was very upset and my initial reaction was that I would take everything down and wouldn’t do it again. It was purely through the messages I saw on Facebook that I thought I would definitely keep going.”

Mr Hayward saved what he can from this year’s display and will buy new reindeer for next year.

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