Spectators at the Penns Place pitches cheer
on sons, daughters and siblings
Petersfield police have called off the search for a missing nine-year-old boy at the Taro fields after he admitted ‘I went for a flight in my dad’s helium balloon’.
Residents have been concerned for some time that the length of the grass on the football pitches at Penns Place - known locally now as The Killing Fields - could cause a serious injury to a small child or dog and on Sunday, nine-year-old Gavin Thomas went missing while playing in a match for Petersfield Town Juniors.
His manager Paul’ Chopper’ Harris said: “It was quite distressing. Young Gavin went chasing a ball down the wing to where the grass is longest and suddenly completely disappeared from sight.
“The grass on the pitches has been far too long for some time now and we’re used to losing balls and water bottles but this is the first time we’ve misplaced a midfielder. The game was abandoned after parents expressed fears there may be a dangerous wild animal lurking near the corner flag or in the six-yard-box. You’d never spot it these days.”
The local police were called in and, after travelling from their base at Matlock, in Derbyshire, started a thorough search of the area.
Police constable Les Beavinya said: “It wasn’t easy. You really need a 4x4 to traverse the sports pitches outside the Taro Centre these days and it’s hardly surprising the young lad disappeared.
“Indeed during the search we misplaced two Alsatians and a female special constable, Miss Eve Ningall. Once the sun started to set we decided it was too dangerous to continue as the goalmouths on the main pitch are like mangrove swamps and anything could be lurking within.”
The search resumed the next day and police were not hopeful. But they called off their search after the boy’s parents called to say he had been discovered 40 miles away after catching a lift on his father’s home-made helium balloon.
Young Gavin admitted: “I chased the ball down to the corner flag but suddenly it got really dark and the grass towered over me. I found a couple of stray dodos and by the time we’d come out I was miles from the pitch so I just went home with the dodos and crawled into Dad’s balloon that he was about to set off.
“When I realised the problems I’d caused I was too scared to come out and own up.”
PC Beavinya added: “We are looking into the possibility of cutting the grass ourselves in the hope we might find our missing sniffer dogs – not to mention Eve Ningall.
“Apparently the pitches have been allowed to grow to that length because the groundsman responsible has developed an unusual all-year case of hay-fever which does not allow him to come into contact with grass.
“It’s a rather unfortunate thing to happen given his choice of career, but we can’t afford to wait for a cure to be found. We may lose goalposts next…”
■ Anybody able to offer the police the use of a large pair of shears should call PC Les Beavinya on Petersfield 111111