Shela Louise is not your typical security guard; six foot four, German, a snappy dresser – and made of plastic.
But a shop owner believes the life-like mannequin would have given burglars a fright when they broke into his art shop last weekend.
Caricaturist Derrick Thompson, 42, has been running Demuz Art in South Street, Tarring for two years.
According to Mr Thompson, thieves broke into his shop in the the early hours of Sunday, January 8 and stole thousands of pounds of stock, including supplies, Lego and sketchbooks with his artwork.
Sussex Police confirmed it had received reports of the burglary and another at a nearby property in Becket Road, where a number of tools were reportedly taken.
Last year, Mr Thompson bought the mannequin from Germany on eBay as a way to attract customers into his shop and as a body-double for his artwork.
He said the mannequin would have ‘spooked’ the intruders because she is so life-like.
His assistant Paul Smith, 44, agreed – but added that it did not stop them taking a crucifix necklace from around Shela’s neck that he bought from a car boot sale.
“She wouldn’t have done much when they broke in, but she must have freaked them out and sped up the theft,” Mr Smith said.
The pair set up a Facebook account for Shela Louise to promote Demuz Art, uploading pictures of the statuesque model.
It has gained an international following, with more than 1,500 friends and 250 followers from America, Asia and the Middle East.
According to Mr Smith, Shela Louise has been sent declarations of love and pictures of red roses on the social networking site – with some users believing the mannequin is real.
He said: “People comment with things like ‘nice’ and ‘beautiful’. One guy said ‘I am here for you darling’.
“A lot of the time I comment back with something like ‘go away mate, she’s already married’ or ‘I’m her brother’. I’m just trying to stick up for her.
“You think, are they blind? You can tell she isn’t real. Unless they are doing it for a laugh and playing along. Or maybe they like mannequins; maybe it is a fetish.”
Mr Thompson said his girlfriend Nina came up with the mannequin’s name. Shela – pronounced Sheila – is the Australian slang term for a woman, and Louise was a girl Mr Thompson went to college with that the mannequin reminded him of.
He believed the mannequin’s popularity was because she looked like ‘the stereotypical perfect girlfriend’, a ‘dolly bird type of girl’ who is always ‘glamorous’.
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