WHY did the tortoise cross the road? To get a free holiday in Blackpool of course.
The Healey family, from Marton, came home from a trip to Chester Zoo on Sunday with a most unusual souvenir – a gigantic African Spurred Tortoise.
Lee Healey, his fiancee Rebecca Sherratt and their two children Dominic, four, and Connor, two, had enjoyed a day out at the attraction and were driving home when something strange caught Mr Healey’s eye.
After seeing movement in the bushes, he was astonished to see the 3ft long giant reptile running free – and about to cross the main road out of the walled city.
Thinking it was an escapee from the zoo, the 27-year-old quickly pulled over the car and hoisted the 60kg creature into the boot.
But on returning to Chester, zoo staff were left scratching their heads as to where the male tortoise – now known to be called Harry – had come from.
To the family’s surprise keepers said they could not take the heavyweight runaway as it may pose an infection risk to other animals.
So after phone calls to the police and RSPCA, Harry was packed back into the car and brought back to Blackpool so the family could trace her owners.
Mr Healey, of Marton Drive, said: “It was surreal driving along the motorway knowing there was a giant tortoise in the car.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it, when I told Rebecca, she thought I was joking until I pulled the car around.
“We knew we couldn’t have left him where he was, he would have been killed.
“The boys loved having him at home. We called him Chester until we finally learned his real name.”
The family fed their unusual house guest sprouts and cabbage. He was sleeping in the house on blankets at night.
Harry’s break in the resort was short lived as his real owners were traced on and he was collected.
It appears he had escaped through a hole in his enclosure and walked around three miles to get to the road – one of Chester’s busiest.