Stolen Daleks return to promote upcoming Children in Need event

By Nick Batten on 6 October, 2023

Last week, shoppers at Swindon’s McArthurGlen Designer Outlet were treated to the unveiling of two Daleks which were recently re-discovered after disappearing for almost 20 years. 

Originally created for a Children In Need event at North Star House in Swindon in 1996, they were used again in 2003 for Space Station Pudsey 2 at the town’s Designer Outlet.

After being stolen in 2004, they went missing until December 2021 when one of them was found being put up for auction in Scotland. 

Now the Daleks have been restored and reunited with their custodian John Chapman and the two mischievous aliens invaded the popular shopping centre on Friday, 29th September to announce a ‘Return to Space Station Pudsey’ event on November 17th.

The man behind these creations John Chapman, event organiser Dave Latham, Co-Organiser of Space Station Pudsey 2, Anita Jaynes and Robert Cowley from Project Dalek were on-hand at the event to relate this remarkable story.

Event organiser at the time was Dave Latham a former BT Community Relations Manager in the area.

He said, “The two Daleks had only been built with one aim – to raise funds for BBC Children in Need and they patrolled a gantry suspended above the public space. They remained in character and looked incredibly menacing. Importantly, they drew a lot of attention from visitors.” 

The two working models were built by volunteer fundraiser and BT engineer John Chapman while the telecommunications company paid for materials. 

According to John, they took six months to construct and a lot of his spare time. He said, “We were so pleased to get the OK to build them and they contributed to an exciting evening on TV and radio.” 

After the 1996 event they were stored in a secret and secure location near Swindon and later used in 2003 for Space Station Pudsey 2 at the Designer Outlet Swindon, when Dave Latham had become Children in Need Producer at BBC Wiltshire. Shortly afterwards the models were returned to storage – and a few weeks later they mysteriously vanished.

Anita Jaynes, Founder of The Business Exchange at Space Station Pudsey back in 2003

Co-organiser of Space Station Pudsey 2 Anita Jaynes, who now runs The Business Exchange Swindon and Wiltshire, expressed the views of the organisers and volunteers on receiving the news at the time. 

“We were angry!” she said. “After all the hard work that John and others had put in, and then to have them taken, it was very upsetting for the team! These were built for charitable purposes only. A really sad situation.” 

John Chapman said, “They were clearly identified as Children in Need fundraising props and somebody went to a great deal of effort to snatch them. I reported the models as stolen to Wiltshire Police and realised it was possible I would never see them again.” 

Then 18 years later, something remarkable happened. Auctioneers in Scotland were preparing for their ‘Works of Art’ Auction which was due to take place in December 2021. A grey, full-size Dalek was to be included as one of the lots. This, along with a second, gold Dalek had apparently been discovered in a barn, in Avon, earlier in the year. In order for them to list the Dalek accurately for the auction, it became clear that some research was required to uncover the history behind this prop and where it might have been used both on screen and in public.

John Chapman unveils one of the Daleks last week

John Darley from projectdalek.co.uk was contacted and supplied with photos of both the grey Dalek and the second gold Dalek. 

He explained, “Only a handful of Daleks were built for the original TV show in the 1960s and then a few more in the 1970s. Most Daleks which come up for sale are modern fan-made replicas. In that respect, these two Daleks were no different and it was easy to deduce that they weren’t from the show. 

“However, they did look quite old, so there was obviously some history to them. After a bit of research and a few conversations with other Project Dalek members, we managed to identify the Daleks as being those stolen in 2004. John Chapman had been a member of Project Dalek since 2006, so it was easy for me to locate his contact details and drop him an email with the news that his Daleks had been found. This wasn’t really the provenance that anyone expected, but good news for John.” 

John Chapman recognised his work instantly. “I could not believe the news or my eyes! After all this time the Daleks had survived. I was very grateful to Project Dalek for their support.” 

There was more to come. John contacted Wiltshire Police and they carried out a swift investigation and located the gold Dalek at another location close to Swindon. 

“We were delighted by the response of Wiltshire Police who followed a number of leads and had to liaise with another UK police force to ensure these were brought back safely to us,” John continued. 

Now the two lost Daleks are back just in time for the 20th anniversary of Space Station Pudsey 2 and by coincidence the 60th anniversary of Doctor Who

Dave, who commissioned them in 1996 added, “We hope to see these two wonderful models at this year’s big fundraiser at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Swindon – Return to Space Station Pudsey on Friday 17th November. Hopefully, they will not frighten away too many shoppers donating money to BBC Children in Need.” 

Any local businesses getting behind this year’s Children in Need Appeal are being invited to get involved and come down to the Outlet Centre on Children in Need day. 

The Business Exchange is supporting with the event as a media partner and is acting as the point of contact for any businesses or individuals wanting to get involved. If you want to find out more, email: press@tbesw.co.uk to be connected with the fundraising team.

To find out more about BBC Children in Need visit: bbcchildreninneed.co.uk

Pictured: (top of page) the recent press call event at the Swindon Designer Outlet