The shell-shocked owner of a tearaway tortoise dubbed ”Houdini” told of her relief after he returned home safe – from his FIFTIETH escape attempt.
Adventurous tortoise Jamie has spent an estimated 130 days on the run in the 34 years he has belonged to long-suffering Carole Whitham, 58.
On average his audacious bids for freedom last between two and three days, but his longest adventure saw him disappear for three WEEKS.
The roaming reptile has covered a total of 25 miles in his numerous escape attempts, but is usually picked up around half a mile away in dandelion fields.
Over the year campsite wardens, motorists and kind-hearted neighbours have all played a part in returning 35-year-old Jamie home safe.
Despite ending up on a bowling green, open farmland, and even an Edinburgh post office, he has always found his way back to relieved Carole, and husband Peter, 60.
Jamie’s most daring attempt involved a three-week meander around his home village of Freiston, Lincs., two years ago and involved the perilous crossing of a busy main road.
And two weeks ago Carole and Peter were forced to put up missing posters after he escaped for three days.
Luckily the restless tortoise was found unharmed and happily chomping away on grass in a nearby field.
Dog-groomer Carole said she had frequently given Jamie up as lost or stolen but the death-defying tortoise always somehow returned safe and well.
She said: ”I’ve almost lost count of exactly how many times he’s escaped. When the children were younger and used to leave the garden gate open it was about twice a year.
”It must sound like we don’t look after him but he’s just very determined.
”He just likes to have a good roam and an amble along, I think it’s in his nature. He’s been a little Houdini over the years.
”How far he can get depends on how fast he goes. When he is aiming for something, like the front gate, he has a good pace.
”Lots of other people always help us get him back and it’s usually by a string of coincidences we find out where he is. We’re very lucky, it must be fate.”
Grandmother-of-five Carole first bought Jamie at a market in Norfolk when her eldest son Perry, 36, was just 18 months old.
He has been with the family ever since despite his numerous escape attempts, which Carole said were born of a ”thirst for adventure”.
His favourite escape route is through the garden gate and the furthest he ever made it from home was a mile away to the other side of Freiston.
Initially plucky Jamie would make a break for freedom on average twice a year, but the frequency of his attempts have decreased now he is getting older.
But during a caravanning trip to Edinburgh five years ago Jamie managed to slip out of the awning, before being taken to a local post office by the bemused campsite warden.
Mum-of-two Carole said: ”We once lost him when we took him caravanning on holiday in Scotland. He got out of the awning and escaped across the campsite.
”The warden found him and clearly couldn’t believe someone would bring a tortoise on holiday so he ended up in a post office half a mile away.
”At home he often goes around to our neighbour’s house to pinch his beans.
”We can’t keep him penned up as he gets very stressed. He’s very clever and although our garden is pretty secure, he always seems to find a way out.”
The lifespan of tortoises generally matches humans, although the longest surviving creature is reported to have reached the grand old age of 188.