THE worry is over – Pie Crust the tortoise is alive and well.
Pupils at a Sunderland school are overjoyed after their favourite visitor turned up safe, after being missing for six months.
The 50-year-old reptile was feared dead or stolen after disappearing from the Seaham garden of his owner, John McCabe.
Thinking he might be hibernating, John had searched high and low but could not find the old fella anywhere.
A teacher at Broadway Juniors, John regularly took Pie Crust into the school and the children were left devastated by his disappearance.
“He had just been into school a few days earlier for Roald Dahl Day,” said John. “One of the books, Esio Trot, is about a tortoise.
“The children loved seeing him. They weighed him, measured him and drew pictures. Then he just disappeared from the garden.
“He is slow, but can get quite a long way down the street if he gets out of the gate.”
He added: “We searched high and low for him for days.
“The dog tried to sniff him out and the neighbours were all looking for him, but there was no sign and I even thought he might have been stolen from the garden.
“In the end I had to resign myself that he had gone for good, and had to break the news to the children at school who were all devastated.”
But last week when John’s wife Tracey was in the garden, she saw something moving.
On closer investigation she found Pie Crust digging his way out of the ground.
John, who has owned him for 12 years after he was given to him from a family friend, said: “We couldn’t believe it.
“He must have buried himself so deep into the soil to hibernate.
“But I’ve no idea how he managed to cover himself up.
“He was really lucky that we had a mild winter, because I don’t think he would have survived more severe weather.
“When we told the kids at school he had been found, they were absolutely overjoyed.”
Pie Crust is none the worse for wear after his time out and is back to eating his favourite foods of dandelions and cucumber.