1970s children's TV stars The Wombles have been plunged into a storm of controversy after their former leader admitted that they regularly stole items from the general public under the guise of recycling 'the things that the everyday folks leave behind.'
In a hard-hitting interview with Piers Morgan, Wombles don Great Uncle Bulgaria confesses that the rodent gang took advantage of their reputation as helpful litter-pickers and recyclers to 'half-inch anything that wasn't nailed down' for the best part of a decade.
'We woz more underground than overground, if you know what I mean' he tells Morgan. 'I had a whole gang of young Wombles under my control. I'd send them out in the morning and they knew they wasn't to come back until they'd appropriated at least an old bicycle, a battered old suitcase and half a tuba.' Furthermore, rather than making good use of the things that they found, their misappropriated goods were sold on to fences, flogged from suitcases in East End pubs or knocked out at dodgy car boot sales. Bulgaria estimated that they must have made millions over the years. 'And we never paid no tax nor nuffink either' he boasted.
Over the years the gang moved on to other areas of illegality. 'It was an obvious step to start distributing fake charity bags' Bulgaria explained, 'but even I was surprised when we started the gun-running and drug-smuggling, and then there was the prostitution of course, although that was mainly Madame Cholet's area. She wasn't called Madame for nothing!'
However, doubt has been cast onto the validity of his claims by others within the clan. 'He's making it all up just to sell copies of his new book' claimed fellow Womble Tobermory. 'We might have been a bit quick to assume that something had been left behind on occasions, but we certainly didn't set out to go robbing.' Another Womble, Wellington, has advised Tobermory to keep his views to himself though. 'We all know what happened to Orinoco when he first starting dropping hints that something was wrong' he warned, 'who's seen anything of him since 1979?'
The Wombles aren't the first stars of children's TV to court controversy. Last year Bagpuss admitted to a history of alcoholism and benefits fraud, and in 2010 Paddington Bear was found guilty of involvement with a people-smuggling ring based in darkest Peru.