In another example of 'What on earth is Britain coming to?' following the shocking mobile phone film of a mother's racist rants while her child sat on her knee on a tram, the woman in the garden centre steps into a floral display and unplugs the electric elf called Chippy.
The boy whose hands she's holding appears to be about three or four years old.
A minute later a teenage girl in a black-and-white striped T-shirt arrives and walks off with Chippy under her right arm.
Both women and the child had earlier been pictured with a white-haired woman in a wheelchair.
Chippy was a well-known face to visitors of the Woodcote Green garden centre in Wallington, London. Now only Rusty the gnome remains.
The lucky mascot, with his emerald green outfit and sunny smile, greeted shoppers with a friendly wave and attracted donations to its charity appeal for schools and wounded soldiers.
But it appears he was too irresistible for the woman caught on CCTV on Tuesday. Police have appealed for witnesses to identify the suspects.
Phillip Barnden, the garden centre's general manager, said: "We are very upset about it. Chippy was a very welcoming elf, adored by local children who visit the centre. We would like to ask the culprits to return him to where he belongs."
Police said the woman who was holding the child's hand is believed to be 25 to 30, about 5ft 6in tall, with long dark hair in a ponytail. She was wearing a black tracksuit top over a striped T-shirt.
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