Charity shop Amaze staff created the controversial scene outside its shop during the festive season to highlight the plight of rough sleepers and homelessness during the winter months in Malvern, Worcestershire
A mannequin which had been repeatedly mistaken for a dead body after it was put on display outside a charity shop has been stolen.
The Amaze charity shop, which supports the homeless in Worcestershire, was told by West Mercia Police to remove the mannequin in a sleeping bag from a spot outside its Malvern store as some people had complained over its likeness to a corpse.
The shop appeared in the Mirror last month after the owner refused to take the life-like statue and its sleeping bag away, Birmingham Live reports.
Amaze staff created the scene outside its shop during the festive season to highlight the plight of rough sleepers in the area with the backing of town mayor Nick Houghton.
But it also touched a nerve after rough sleeper Joby Sparrey was found dead in the doorway in another shop in the town on Christmas Day in 2018.
Shop owner Chris Lee, 68, packed the display into a cardboard box over Christmas out of respect for Mr Sparrey and removed the head to repaint it as a female.
Chris Lee / SWNS)
But when he drove past on Boxing Day, he discovered thieves had stolen it.
The mannequin and a red sleeping bag, had been placed next to a drain and gutters with a sign saying “down here is a bad place for a poster, it’s an even worse place to live.”
It was so lifelike, some people had even offered it coffee and food.
Defiant Amaze founder Chris Lee, who was homeless for seven years after divorce and cancer left him unable to work and pay the mortgage, said: “I’d left it all in a box and was stunned to see thieves stole it all over Christmas, but it hasn’t stopped us.
“We did this to create awareness around homelessness and it has. Luckily we still had the head and another shop donated materials and we have renamed her Hope.
“Hope is now outside with a sign saying ‘4 in ten homeless live in a place not intended for humans – like this box’.”
Mr Lee said the police officer who approached him on December 21, telling him to remove the original display, had been “aggressive” and “abrupt”.
“The police said it was ‘too distressing’ but I responded that the plight of homelessness was distressing,” added Mr Lee.
“It was only the police who are unhappy with it. The really sad thing is we often find people huddled in the doorway wanting help.
Chris Lee / SWNS)
“The display was there to evoke comment and start a conversation, but the police officer thought it was too shocking an image and could cause an accident.
“It was just our way of saying please be aware and help the homeless if you can. I contacted the mayor’s office and they told me not to worry about it.
“The majority of responses have been really nice and kind, some people even thought it was real and brought coffee and food.
“I know what it is like to be homeless. You get called all the labels and all your confidence goes. You feel like a second class citizen.
This is not the first time Amaze has courted controversy following its opening in April last year when lawyers from online retail giant Amazon threatened owners Mr Lee and partner Polly Reehal for using its trademark as it had a ‘smile logo’ swoop under the Amaze wording.
When they removed the logo, Amazon offered to make a donation to the charity.
A spokesperson from West Mercia Police said: “The officer had spoken with the manager to highlight that the mannequin looked very life-like and could easily have been mistaken for a dead body given its appearance and that this had been the case with us receiving such feedback.
“This was also likely to cause both some distress to the public and unnecessary calls to the police so it was requested the display be adapted so as to not cause either of these issues.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.