Police have busted a criminal gang trying to pass off garden hedgehogs as rare and valuable Australian Echidnas, and selling them to the general public. In a joint operation including commandos from the RSPCA’s black ops unit, the criminals were seized at a car boot sale in Godalming, Surrey, selling the animals for £20 each, along with ‘special Echidna houses’ that looked suspiciously like dustbins for £100 .
Police spokesman Nigel Thorpe said ‘This was a professional outfit. Gang members would take hedgehogs from gardens, then use specialist artistic skills to attach a false nose to the existing one. After that they look identical to an echidna to the untrained eye. We only found out when one purchaser complained to trading standards after the elastic holding the nose snapped.
The gang was headed up by out-of-work prosthetic make-up artist Mark Pye , who apologies to the public: ‘Since the advent of CGI there’s been a gradual decline in work for us special effects types’ he said. ‘In 2004 I was making prosthetic fat suits for Ben Stiller in ‘Dodgeball’. The only work I had last year was painting a wart onto the cheek of a witch at my daughter’s school play. I just thought, if I could strap a convincing cone on to a hedgehog it would prove I’d still got it.’
Meanwhile, in a parallel raid, police in Sydney have confirmed they have “finally found the bastards chopping the noses off Echidnas and selling them as exotic British hedgehogs”.