The mime artist (pictured above) was seen handing out leaflets to residents and asking for donations
Organisers of a village fete are hunting down a mime artist who fleeced locals of charity donations before fleeing with the cash.
The mystery suspect had attended the event in the Forest of Dean, wandering around the carnival in a body morph suit.
Communicating only through mime, he handed out forms to residents to guess his identity and to pledge £1, offering a £100 prize fund to the person who could correctly unmask him.
The entry form said: ‘Is it a bird, is it a plane. No it’s Woolaston’s Mystery Man’ – with space for people to leave contact details and guesses.
Revellers attending the carnival on June 22 assumed he was a local resident raising cash for the hall fund and many paid a pound – and even posed for selfies.
His identity remained a secret throughout the day- but within hours of him raising an estimated several hundred pounds he is now feared to have fled with the proceeds.
Villagers say they still don’t know if they have been duped or are victims of a bad joke by the man who hid his face and communicated with everyone only by mime.
And now those behind the Woolaston Carnival have issued a desperate plea for the man to hand over the money before they call in police.
Carnival co-ordinator Andy Morgan Watts who led the parade in his vintage car dressed as a ringmaster said the mime artist just appeared and that people had been applauding him because it seemed such a clever way of raising money.
A flyer the mime artist distributed to residents who gave him cash
‘But when he disappeared it left a bad taste because people thought they had been giving money to charity.
‘I still like to believe that he is just dragging it out to get the maximum amount of money possible from a good idea.
‘Some people think I’m being too kind but we will have to wait and see which way it goes. It’s clearly as black and white as his suit.’
Organisers said they did not think there was anything sinister about the man in the chequered morph suit who joined the carnival parade as it wended its way around the small upmarket village which is just off the A48.
He even cheekily put his belongings in the back of a vintage car and made a thumbs up sign so he would have his hands free to hand out leaflets.
‘There’s nothing unusual in people joining the parade so we didn’t think much of it when he snuck in,’ said Sue Anderson who is on the carnival committee.
‘Everyone thought it was a great idea and he was dancing with the samba band and putting his arm around children who wanted their photograph taken with him.
‘It was a beautiful day and everybody was having a good time but later on towards the end, when everybody thought he was going to climb on stage and do the big reveal, nobody could find him. He had just disappeared.’
Some villagers said they had seen the mystery man melt away from the memorial fields down a public footpath while carrying a deckchair and what looked like an old music bag or briefcase.
They thought he would be coming back but when the man did not come forward Sue and her husband Tony, chairman of the carnival committee, put an appeal out on Facebook asking the joker to reveal himself.
They then received an email from the ‘Woolaston carnival mystery man’ offering to put over £100 into the bank if they gave details of the carnival account.
The couple have not heard anything since declining to do so while suggesting a meeting so he could hand over the cash.
‘We want to give him a chance in case it’s someone who means well and has just taken a joke a bit too far,’ said Sue.
‘But I know some people are losing patience because there are older people and children who gave him money from their pensions and their piggy banks.
‘We could go to the police but they are hardly going to be able to identify him in a line up and as everybody keeps joking, he’s probably already got a chequered past.’
Mum Donna Haywood was one of the villagers who came across the man and said: ‘We paid for three guesses and an extra pound for Kane to have his picture taken with him as my son is a massive Fortnite fan.
‘Thinking it was for the hall fund it didn’t bother me paying, but to then see the post on Facebook that he was actually a con man it’s such a shame that people feel the need to do this type of thing.’
Sue says the whole village is talking about it and there has been much speculation about his identity, with many suggesting he had the slight paunch and the gait of an older man.
But others say he is young and the only thing everybody can agree on is that it was definitely a male not a female inside the skin tight suit which sells on line for between £20 and £30.
‘I have a feeling I know who it is but I can’t say and add to the speculation,’ added Mr Morgan Watts who fears villages will blame the organisers if he does turn out to be a conman.
‘The person I am thinking about fits the bill in terms of height and sense and humour but we will have to see if he comes forward.
‘If he doesn’t there’s not a lot we can do. I know people will be upset about the money but we had really good day and that’s what it’s all about. Community spirit.’
The post on Facebook said: ‘Woolaston Carnival conned by this man! Other Carnivals – BEWARE!
‘He slipped into our Carnival Parade and field fun. He dished out these leaflets, was voiceless and was very entertaining.
‘He disappeared by the time people started asking questions and he’d made his money!’
The mystery man has been emailed but has yet to respond.