IT’S the ultimate whodunnit.
The perfect nativity scene outside a pub has been ruined after thieves swiped the baby Jesus doll.
John Miller, owner of The Woodmancote near Emsworth, went to great lengths to install the colourful, illuminated scene outside his pub.
But he woke up on Christmas Day to find baby Jesus was missing from his manger, with Mary and Joseph looking over an empty crib.
Now Mr Miller is offering a reward for the return of the plastic doll, which was donated by a neighbour in the West Sussex hamlet.
The 63-year-old, whose parents ran The Jolly Sailor in Southsea when he was a child, said: ‘We thought somebody had taken him for a joke.
‘I think everybody is sad.
‘The last time we saw him he was being held by one of our female customers on Christmas Eve, but she has not got him.’
Mr Miller said no clues had surfaced as to the doll’s whereabouts, but he is prepared to offer a reward.
‘I think it will be a donation to a local charity,’ he added.
‘I am not sure which one yet.’
The doll is life-size and was wearing a white shawl, wrapped in an antique blanket.
Julian Franklin, 46, restaurant manager, said the nativity scene had been a popular attraction at the pub since it was put up on December 1.
He said: ‘The bizarre thing was when we put the baby out, people were saying you aren’t supposed to do that until Christmas Day.
‘It’s bizarre because for all that time he wasn’t supposed to be there, and when he is, he’s actually gone.
‘I have no idea who it was.
‘I think it’s a real shame.’
As reported, The Woodmancote reopened this year after being taken over by entrepreneurial couple Jim Paget and John Miller.
They spent 20 years running restaurants in Spain, but returned to the UK and spent two months renovating the pub.
They set out this Christmas to add some festive sparkle.
Mr Franklin added: ‘The decorations are quite over the top.
‘We have a lot of people coming just to see the decorations.
‘As with the rest of the pub, we don’t do it by halves! It’s quite possible you could see it from space!’