A THIEF was let off and released without charge despite hiding out in a garden centre and stealing food for four days.
Staff at South Downs Nurseries in Hassocks noticed dog food was going missing from their huge warehouse.
And somebody kept setting off the burglary alarms at night, costing them hundreds of pounds for the security guards who quickly arrived but could not find anyone inside.
As more food went missing, it was clear the thief must have been hiding out in the store by day to carry out the raids at night, just like the bad guys Harry and Marv did in the toy store in the film Home Alone 2.
But when staff scrutinised CCTV footage they saw the culprit – a fox who even cheekily followed behind security staff, completely unnoticed.
Sarah Mead, from the garden centre in Brighton Road, said: “The first thing we knew about it was when we came in and half the dog food had been eaten.
“After we saw it was a fox on CCTV we thought maybe it had gone.
“We spent hours searching for it but our warehouse is huge.
“We left food and water out for it and two staff stayed behind to try and coax it out through the door. But they did not even see it.”
Sarah eventually spotted the fox hidden behind some shelving units.
She said: “Obviously we were worried it would be getting quite scared so we left him and waited for a professional.
“I think the fox liked it here because it had plenty of food and water and it’s nice and warm.”
Staff wanted the fox to be rescued unharmed and thankfully got hold of animal rescuer Roger Musselle, from Roger’s Wildlife Rescue in Woodingdean.
Roger went along immediately and, with the help of staff members, dismantled displays of goods, shelves and eventually part of the wall behind the display to try to get at the fox who was curled up.
He said: “This operation took over an hour. As they reached the opened doors I pushed the carry basket we had used out and ‘Reynard’ tore out of the box and away across the field.
“That was probably the most difficult fox rescue I’ve had, firstly from the position the fox was in, and secondly trying to keep a large adult dog fox contained in the basket without injury to anyone or itself.”
Source: The Argus