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Interpol has been called in, as fears grow that ‘Miranda’ may have been smuggled abroad. The bronze fountain, pictured right, was stolen from the grounds of the Automotive Products building in Leamington Spa, while building work was being carried out in December.

It is thought the thieves may even have used the builders’ lifting gear to remove the one tonne figure, which was commissioned by Lockheed Brakes in 1951, and was originally on display at the Festival of Britain in London before moving to the company’s base in Leamington.

The statue has remained in the Warwickshire spa town ever since, and in 1999 the rare charms of Miranda – who has scaly, fin-tailed legs instead of the more usual lower half of a fish – earned her recognition as an architectural treasure when she was awarded a Grade II listed building status.

“This is a matter of great regret for us,” said John Beaumont, a planning officer for Warwick District Council. “The statue is part of the history of the town, and we were trying to incorporate into any redevelopment of Spa Park.”

The 5ft nymph, perched on a turtle’s back and cavorting with several spouting fish, was designed by Arthur Fleischman and sculptor John Galizia and is valued at up to £100,000.

Garden statuary theft is a growing problem, with large items often stolen to order. Information to Leamington Spa police on 01926 415000.