When police in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, received reports of a baby trapped in a car on a sweltering day, they rushed to scene to rescue it. As the car was locked, the cops had no choice but to smash a window to rescue the baby for fears that the baby would die in the suffocating heat. And they ended up red-faced when they realized that the baby was in fact a toy.
Chanel Cristofis, five, left the doll called Sam in her dad Anastasi’s Vauxhall Zafira when he dropped her off at school. He then went to work at the fish and chip shop he owns.
But a passer-by in the car park spotted the eerily lifelike Ł100 Reborn doll and called the police.
Anastasi, 37, said: “I couldn’t believe it when the police turned up holding the doll and told me what had happened. The officer told me not to leave it in the car again.”
The detail-packed lifelike dolls like Sam are a hit with little girls. Artists work painstakingly to make them lifelike, with the skin painted in multiple layers in a mottled effect and even giving them birthmarks and anatomically correct tiny veins. They are weighted similarly to that of real newborns – and the hair and eyelashes are often rooted with mohair.
While the dolls are sometimes used like a regular toy, they can also serve a more serious purpose: to help a parent grieving the loss of a child or in incidents involving police work.
Reborns first started to appear in the early 1990s when toy enthusiasts wanted to create more realistic dolls.
Mother-of-three Victoria Cristofis lives with partner Anastasi and their three children – Paris, seven, five-year-old Chanel and Jayden, two. She bought the ‘Reborn’ doll for her daughter Chanel’s birthday in June.
But within a month the doll – which looks and even smells almost exactly like a real baby – has caused all manner of confusion in Worksop.
Victoria, 25, said: “‘Chanel is absolutely inseparable from this doll, she takes it everywhere and in just a month it’s caused all sorts of problems. It’s becoming a bit of a celebrity in Worksop.
“A woman in a supermarket saw Chanel shaking it and was horrified. She asked what sort of mother I thought I was to allow my baby to be treated like that. I can see why the police did it. If it had been real, everyone would be thanking them.”
“I had to explain to her that it wasn’t real. She didn’t believe me at first then she inspected it and realised it was a doll. We ended up having a laugh about it.
“Sometimes Chanel carries the doll around in a little Moses basket and swings the basket around like kids do. We will be walking down the street and people will look on in horror.
“It is amazing, there’s no detail left out. It’s not just the way it looks, although it’s so realistic it even has veins. When you pick it up it flops a bit just like a real baby, and they even make it smell like a real baby.
“Anastasi wasn’t too happy with the state of his car afterwards and was worried the police wouldn’t pay for the damage, although eventually they said they would.
“Now we are just laughing about it really, it’s a good tale to tell our family and friends. I can’t separate Chanel from Sam but I am a bit worried about what’s going to happen next. She’s only had her a month and already the police have been involved, I’m just wondering what’s next.”
Police are to pay for more than Ł200 damage done to the car. Sgt Robert Holmes said: “The call was made in good faith. Drivers need to think about what they leave on view in their cars.”