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U.K. police hunt rabbit thief after giant celebrity pet Darius goes missing

2010 Guinness world record holder Darius was taken from a garden enclosure in central England, police say.
Image: Breeder Annette Edwards from Stoulton in Worcestershire holds Darius, a giant rabbit
Pet breeder Annette Edwards from Worcestershire, England, holds Darius, her pet Continental Giant rabbit, in 2015. He was reported missing this weekend.Damien Mcfadden / Shutterstock file

LONDON — Missing: Darius, with long floppy ears and measuring a record-breaking 4 feet. Last seen in rabbit hutch in Stoulton, England.

Police said they were hunting one of the world's largest rabbits, if not the largest, which went missing over the weekend.

"We are appealing for information following the theft of an award-winning rabbit from its home in Stoulton, Worcestershire," West Mercia Police said in statement on Monday. "The rabbit is quite unique in the fact it is 4ft in size."

Darius, who became a 2010 Guinness world record holder for his huge length, was stolen from a garden enclosure in central England on Saturday night.

Darius' owner, Annette Edwards, wrote on Twitter that police were working hard to find her prize-winning pet and that she had offered a reward of 1,000 pounds ($1,400) for his safe return.

"A very sad day," she said. "Darius is too old to breed now. So please bring him back."

Edwards in an interview with the TODAY show in 2010 said her massive pet — a Continental Giant rabbit — was friendly, had a huge appetite and enjoyed lazing around on furniture.

The pair used to tour the country together with owner Edwards donning a Jessica Rabbit style outfit to show off gigantic Darius.

At the time, she said the celebrity bunny was insured for $1.6 million, had an agent and travelled with a bodyguard.

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Darius' disappearance comes amid a spike in pet theft in England during the coronavirus pandemic.

The charity DogLost said it saw reports of thefts rise by 170 percent in the last year, from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 in 2020.

Pet detective Jacob Lloyd, head of investigations at Animal Protection Services, which prosecutes organized animal cruelty, told NBC News the "pandemic prices" for all animals had surged in Britain — with the average price tag for a pet dog jumping from about 700 pounds ($1,000) to 3,500 pounds ($5,000) in the last year.

"It's completely disproportionate to what we would normally see," Lloyd said. "Opportunists and organized criminals have taken advantage in the rise of prices, and dog and other animal thefts have gone up."

With people in England locked down for much of the year, Lloyd said the need for "companionship" while spending more time at home had led to the surge in demand.

In Darius' high-profile case a potential "ulterior motive" could also be at stake, pet detective Lloyd added, likely the work of organized criminals who knew his value.

The U.K.'s policing Minister Kit Malthouse called animal theft a "vile crime," in a statement earlier this year.

"Let me be clear — pet theft is a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment and it must be confronted wherever it occurs," he added.

Singer Lady Gaga's two pet dogs, Koji and Gustav, made global headlines when they were briefly stolen and returned in February, amid her public pleas and a $500,000 reward.

Her French bulldogs were taken in a violent robbery in Hollywood, in which the singer's 30-year-old dog walker was shot and sustained non-life-threatening injuries.