Lost Daleks found in time for Pudsey fundraiser

By Anita Jaynes on 29 August, 2023

Two Daleks made for an intergalactic BBC Children in Need fundraising event 27 years ago, and then mysteriously vanished seven years later, have dramatically been reunited with their custodian and builder in Swindon after an investigation by Wiltshire Police.

The gold and grey Daleks were part of Space Station Pudsey in November 1996 which took place at BT North Star House in Swindon. This was a glitzy fundraiser which featured celebrities from various BBC shows including ex Doctor Who, Tom Baker.

The event organiser at the time was Dave Latham a former BT community Relations Manager in the area. Dave 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.”

Pictured sparring: David Latham at Space Station Pudsey in 2003.

Two working models were built by volunteer fundraiser and BT engineer John Chapman while the telecommunications company paid for materials. John said, “They took six months to construct and a lot of my spare time. We were so pleased to get the OK to build them and they contributed to an exciting evening on BBC 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 2 at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet Swindon, when Dave Latham had become Children in Need producer at BBC Wiltshire. Shortly after the event the models were returned to storage and a few weeks later they mysteriously went missing. 

Co-organiser of Space Station Pudsey 2, Anita Jaynes, Founder of The Business Exchange, expressed the views of the organisers and volunteers on receiving the news at the time. She said, “We were angry! After all the hard work that John and the others had put in, and then to have them taken, it was really upsetting for the team. These were built for charitable purposes only. A really sad situation.”

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

John Chapman added, “They were clearly marked 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 quite 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 Darley from projectdalek.co.uk was contacted and supplied with photos of both Daleks.

John said, “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 were not from the show. 

“After a bit of research it became clear that the Daleks were 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 track him down. This wasn’t really the provenance that anyone expected, but good news for John.”

John Chapman recognised his work instantly, he said, “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.

Wiltshire Police carried out a swift investigation and worked fast to get the Daleks back to their rightful owner. John added, “We were delighted by the response of Wiltshire Police who had to liaise with another UK police force to ensure the Daleks were brought back safely to us.”

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

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

Tina Cumptsey, Centre Manager at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Swindon said, “We’re delighted to welcome back team Pudsey after 20 years. It’s all for a fantastic cause and we can’t wait to help raise as much money as possible.”

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 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: www.bbcchildreninneed.co.uk