A BEREFT pet owner is appealing for the return of her elderly tortoise after it disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

The Hermanns tortoise has been in the family for 50 years but went missing from its garden enclosure.

Sue Jellyman, 58, lives in Longville in the Dale near Church Stretton and works for Shropshire Council in Shrewsbury.

She returned home on June 5 to find Lucy missing from his enclosure in the garden.

Lucy is actually male – the name is due to the difficulties in identifying gender in young tortoises.

Sue told Living: “I asked around and a lady came back to me and said ‘I think I’ve seen your tortoise’. It was found by a man who spoke to her and they had a coversation about what was best to do with a lost animal.

“He said he would give it to the RSPCA, but he lived in Wolverhampton so would hand it in there.”

Sue said the neighbour was new to the area so had no idea who it might belong to.

Sue called the RSPCA in Wolverhampton but they had no record of a tortoise being handed in. She has since been scouring vets and animal rescue centres between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton but no avail.

“Lucy is not just a pet, he’s a member of my family and has been for 50 years,” she added. “I’m the second generation tortoise keeper. I’ve had him for 20 years.

“I brought him up to Shropshire from my mother’s garden in South Wales, where she had him for 30 years.”

Lucy’s age is uncertain but he is about 60 years old.

Sue said the man may have taken the animal home and his family decided to keep it, or passed it on to someone else.

“There’s a bit of a black market in tortoises. There is no way a tortoise like Lucy should be sold without papers, but if that’s happened he could be anywhere in the country.”

Hermanns tortoises are protected by CITES meaning a certificate is required to sell them.

Anyone with information can email reporter Tom Morton at thomas.morton@nwn.co.uk or visit the ‘Where is Lucy the Tortoise’ Facebook page.