For ten years, villagers in Brattleby, Lincolnshire were mystified by the unexpected appearance of gnomes in their gardens. But the truth has now finally been revealed at the prankster's funeral earlier this week.
Peter Leighton, 61, had asked his son David, 32, to come clean before his death from prostate cancer. Back in 2003, Peter and David, along with friend Ben Page, carried out the first prank at dead of night.
> "My cousin came round one day after his first ever visit to a pound shop and one of the items he bought was a gnome," Peter told This is Lincolnshire. "Dad said it would be funny to scatter gnomes around the village. He said he would pay for them but I would plant them."
Over the next ten years, the exploit was repeated several times, with gnomes also appearing under a road sign and in a bus shelter. At one point, television crews reported on the appearances.
But the truth was never discovered: indeed, a local well-known joker was widely fingered as the culprit: "and he worked for someone that actually supplied gnomes to pound shops," said parish council chairman Mike Spencer.
Pranks involving gnomes are fairly common - although they disappear rather more often than they appear, thanks to gnome liberation groups that aim to release the garden ornaments back into the wild.
"Thousands of Gnomes are enslaved in gardens across the world. For too long we have let our neighbors usurp the rights of these gentle woodland creatures," pleads the Garden Gnome Liberation Front. "The next time you see someone has cruelly forced a poor gnome to sit among their garden, steal the gnome away. Do whatever it takes to save the poor fellow. This cruelty must stop."
Indeed, just three weeks ago another Lincolnshire resident, Ron Bloomfield, was shocked to discover that three garden gnomes and a concrete rabbit had been stolen from outside his home in Alford.
"At first one disappeared and then turned up on the doorstep of the police station," he told the Skegness Standard. "I've cemented them down to stop them but two haven't been returned."