A ‘Secret Santa’ in Devon has given a family £100 to replace a six-year-old girl’s bike in time for Christmas after her own one was stolen from their garden shed last Friday.
Leah Southcott was said to be “in bits” when she discovered the Raleigh Molli bicycle had been stolen when she got home from the last day of term at Tidcombe Primary School with her mother Kate.
Mrs Southcott, who works at the school, told the North Devon Journal: "We first realised when we got home from school and my husband Mark went to feed the guinea pigs.
"He came back in and said the shed door was wide open and that Leah's bike had gone.
"We were so angry and Leah was in bits. You wouldn't be able to print what I said.
"If the person who stole the bike can read – and I very much doubt they're intelligent enough to – I would hope they get the message that I think it's the lowest of the low to take a child's bike at any time, but especially at Christmas."
She put pictures of the bike on Facebook with an explanation of what had happened before taking Leah to McDonald’s as a treat.
But they had a surprise when they returned home to find a card from Father Christmas with ‘magic notes’ inside to pay for a new bike.
The card read: "Dear Leah, I was very sad to hear about your bike going missing, especially this close to Christmas when I am very busy.
"I am sorry to say I won't have time to get the elves to make you a new bike in time for the big day, so I have delivered some to the shop near you tonight.
"I woke Rudolph especially so please leave him out an extra carrot on Christmas Eve.
"Please take these magic notes with you to the shop with your family to get a new bike.
"No one should be sad at Christmas – especially you as you have been very good this year."
There was no clue as to the identity of the mysterious well-wisher, with the card and its contents leaving the family overwhelmed.
Mrs Southcott said: "It's just an absolute surprise. I was shocked, humbled, and emotional, I couldn't believe it that somebody had gone out of their way to do this, it restored my faith in humanity.
"I've lived in Tiverton all my life and I'm proud to be from here, and this has really brought a tear to my eye – I had to open the sherry," she added.
Leah and her mother went to Ron’s BMX shop in Westexe last Saturday, and happily the youngster should have a new bike in time for Christmas Day.
As for the identity of the Secret Santa, that remains, well, a secret - but given he or she knew where the family live, our best guess is it was a friend or friends of the family who were touched by Leah's story.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.