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Tears as vandals trash Santas grotto in Leven… but what happened next showed true spirit of Christmas

Paula next to the trashed grotto.
Paula next to the trashed grotto.

Vandals who trashed a Santa’s grotto in Leven will not ruin Christmas, the community has pledged.

Locals have rallied round after thugs destroyed the attraction created by Paula Bell and her family to bring joy to the town’s children.

Donations left by visitors will be given to the Sick Kids Hospital in Edinburgh.

Paula, 38, burst into tears when she discovered the Christmas tree smashed up, lights cut and Santa’s fireplace in pieces.

Sweets bought for youngsters visiting the Linwood Drive grotto were also stolen in Monday’s raid.

Police have described it as “a truly disappointing and malicious act”.

“I was devastated that someone could do something so awful.”

Paula Bell.

Word spread quickly however, and scores of generous local people immediately stepped forward to donate items to get it back up and running.

Their kindness means the grotto could reopen as soon as Wednesday.

The grotto before it was targeted.

Paula said: “I was devastated that someone could do something so awful but the community has just been unbelievable.”

She opened the grotto last month in line with Covid-19 requirements following the cancellation of Christmas events across Fife.

Vandals trashed it.

Her partner Daniel Cunningham and brother-in-law Ryan Wilson donned Santa suits and presented excited youngsters with gifts.

Paula and twin sister Lorna dressed as Mrs Claus, while children Jamie, 16, Mia, 11, and one-year-old Lexi – along with cousin Kean, 15 – were the elf helpers.

They initially set up the red gazebo in the front garden just for their own family’s use.

“We didn’t know if there would be any Santas this year so we decided to open it to the whole community and raise funds for Sick Kids in Edinburgh,” said Paula.

“It’s been a tough year for people.”

This was a truly disappointing and malicious act, intentionally trying to spoil the festive period for families in the local area.”

Inspector Paul Gillespie, Levenmouth Police.

She said it took weeks to organise and set up.

“We had a tree, lots of lights, a fireplace, tinsel and boxes wrapped to look like presents,” she said.

“The whole thing was just Christmas mental and it was very popular.

“The kids were loving it.”

She added: “I couldn’t believe it when I came home yesterday afternoon.

“I had been out Christmas shopping and got back at 4pm.

“There were a few things lying out on the fake snow and when I opened the gazebo it was just trashed.

“I was very upset.”

Paula posted pictures of the destruction on Facebook and said the community reaction was amazing.

😭😭😭 IMPORTANT NOTICE 😭😭😭The grotto will NOT be open tonight, someone has trashed it when i was out 2day. Police been…

Posted by Linwood Drives Santa's Grotto on Monday, 30 November 2020

“The community council donated £100 and people have been bringing things to the house,” she said.

“I’ve been picking things up from people all round the town.

“I’ve had so many messages. It’s just brilliant.”

She added: “We’ve pretty much been able to replace everything and the things we haven’t, we now have the money to buy it.

“My mum’s helping me sort everything as quickly as possible.”

Paula issued a huge thank you to everyone who had helped.

“I really don’t have the words,” she said.

“The generosity of the community has had me in even more tears – but in a good way this time.”

Police are investigating the vandalism.

Inspector Paul Gillespie, from Leven Police Station, said: “Officers are carrying out enquiries after a Santa grotto was vandalised in the Linnwood Drive area yesterday.

“This was a truly disappointing and malicious act, intentionally trying to spoil the festive period for families in the local area.”

Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, quoting incident number 2144 of November 30.

Anonymous calls can also be made to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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