THE owner of a nursery turned supersleuth when he found himself on the trail of the lonesome pine... tracking a haul of stolen Christmas trees by following pine needles thieves had left behind.
John Dacre, of Park House Nurseries in Littletown, woke on Sunday to find burglars had lumbered off with his stock of Christmas trees, holly wreaths and festive decorations.
The thieves had even stolen two of his trolleys to cart off their haul.
However little did they realise they had left behind the valuable clues.
When Mr Dacre called police, they spotted the needles and together they followed the trail for half a mile along the Spen Valley Ringway and across fields, stopping at a house in Firthcliffe where the officers found a stash of trees in the garden.
Mr Dacre said: “It happened in the early hours and I got up to find the Christmas trees had gone, along with wrought iron tree stands, holly wreaths, some little conifer trees decorated with ‘snow’, and bird tables.
“I was devastated because Sunday would have been my biggest day for selling Christmas trees.
“I called the police, they were here within minutes and we found this trail of pine needles.
“The funny thing is that they were supposed to be ‘low needle drop’ trees which don’t shed so easily, but thankfully they dropped enough for us to follow!
“All the time I was thinking the trail would end, but while the needles got less and less, it just carried on.”
Five of the trees were eventually recovered and taken back to the nurseries in Eddercliffe Crescent, where they were promptly sold.
“The police were absolutely brilliant,” said Mr Dacre.
“We walked together following this trail through the pouring rain and I joked to them that all we needed was a big magnifying glass and then we’d be real supersleuths!”
A police spokesman said: “The festive foliage led officers to a house in Firthcliffe Parade where the stolen trees were found and recovered.
“As an extra present, officers also found a cannabis farm at the address.”
A 17-year old has been arrested on suspicion of burglary and cultivating cannabis and is currently on bail pending further enquiries.”