Horse lovers across Britain rallied in a huge push to locate a wee boy’s beloved pony after he went missing from his pasture early in December, but the story has ended in tragedy.
The body of 24-year-old Tic Toc has been found. His remains were discovered about 800 metres from where he went missing by a person walking their dog.
It is a harrowing end to a difficult three months for the Carnegie family, and particularly five-year-old Josh, who missed his best friend desperately.
His mother, Catriona, 31, of Ramsey St Mary’s, Cambridgeshire, confirmed to The Cambridge News that Josh had been told of Tic Toc’s death.
“I had to tell Joshua. I told him Tic Toc had gone to heaven. He was absolutely devastated. It has been a nightmare,” she said.
“I always felt convinced that we would find him and get him back. I never thought we would find him dead.”
The mysterious disappearance of Tic Toc, who suffered from Cushing’s disease and needed daily medication, sparked a nationwide hunt, backed by a strong social media campaign.
A reward of £2000 was offered for Tic Toc’s return, the sum swelling temporarily to £6000 before Christmas in the hope the Welsh-Shetland cross would be returned in time for the festive season.
Carnegie said Tic Toc’s death was like losing a member of the family. She thanked those who helped in the hunt for Tic Toc and had offered the family support.
She told the newspaper he had not been a wanderer and could not have got out of the paddock by himself.
Police, who had supported the family in the hunt, have been advised of the discovery of Tic Toc’s body. They would be investigating in a bid to determine whether the death was an accident or whether any offences may have been involved.
Family friend Philip Ward-Burton posted news of Tic Toc’s demise to the thousands who had been following the disappearance online.
“It is with the utmost sadness that I have to write this and inform everyone that Tic Toc has been found and I’m afraid to say it’s the worst possible end to the search for him that was hoped for.
“I personally dealt with the recovery and removal of him as it was far too much for Catriona and her family to face.
“Not only has Catriona had the trauma of the past couple of months since him going, but now has to deal with the utter devastation it has brought upon her.
“Catriona would like to express from the bottom of her heart her thanks and gratitude to every single person who has shown support and given help in the search for him.
“She wishes to have some time to grieve and to come to terms with her tragic loss, but will personally thank everyone when she feels she is ready to.”
Condolence messages have poured in.
Joshua had grown up with Tic Toc and rode him every week during the summer.
His mother said before Christmas that they pair were best friends. Joshua had even written a letter to Father Christmas the year before asking him to make Tic Toc better because he knew he was on medication for his feet.
She kept the news of his disappearance and the massive manhunt from him, instead telling him that he had gone to a retirement home because his feet were bad and that, hopefully, he might be able to come back to the family.
The fencing in his pasture was intact and three gates to his field were shut when his disappearance was discovered, so it was suspected he was stolen. Extensive searches were carried out in the area, including a sweep by a helicopter with a thermal camera.