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Potential 'trophy theft' as head cut off snake Gruffalo character in Inverness

By Alasdair Fraser

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VANDALISM of a much-loved children’s attraction has sparked a call for more frequent police patrols of an Inverness trouble-spot.

The head of the snake character from the famous Gruffalo storybook has been hacked off a carved bench in Culloden Avenue.

While the tarred woodland footpath, nicknamed Gruffalo Way, is popular with schools, nurseries and young families, it has also become known for antisocial behaviour.

Ex-community councillor David McGrath (72), who commissioned the Gruffalo artwork in 2007, was dismayed by the latest destructive act at the site.

There was outrage in May last year when the 10ft high Gruffalo statue had its face destroyed.

In a separate incident, other fairytale characters were scorched by flames when a motorbike was set alight in the Highland Council-owned area. There have also been reports of youths congregating at the leafy spot to share drink and drugs.

“My son noticed the fresh vandalism at the weekend and I was pretty disgusted,” Mr McGrath said.

“It is just mindless vandalism and a bit of a trophy theft for someone. It is so annoying, given the popularity with young folk and families.

“It isn’t just locals who love it, we’ve had people coming from quite a long way away.

“It is terrible that somebody has stooped this low again. We don’t know who has done it or why, but we’ve had groups of youths congregating in the avenue when they shouldn’t be.

“I’ve thought for some time now that the police really need to patrol that area a bit more often and make their presence felt.”

Smithton and Culloden Community Council dreamed up the attraction as Highland Council prepared to fell trees in the avenue.

After gaining consent from Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson and her illustrator, they commissioned Culbokie wood carver Iain Chalmers, famed for his chainsaw creations, to complete the work.

A couple of years later, the artist added the bench where the snake and other characters were featured.

“It was such a simple idea and it wasn’t expensive at all, yet the nurseries and primary schools often bring the kids up for a walk,” Mr McGrath added.

“What Iain did was first class and, whichever way you look at it, it’s art and should be protected.”

The artist has offered to help restore the attraction, as he did after previous vandalism.

“I hadn’t heard, but I’m sure they will be in touch,” Mr Chalmers said. “I’m very disappointed to hear about it, but it’s always a risk with artwork out in the open in populated areas.”

A police spokesman said: “We are aware of the matter and looking into it.”

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