When pet tortoise Buttercup did a runner, owner Wendy Power was left distraught and baffled.

Fearing she could have even been stolen from its pen, she was resigned to the fact that Buttercup could have disappeared for good.

But the nine-year-old Hermann Tortoise has now returned home - after being missing for nine months - much to the delight and relief of Mrs Power, a married mother-of two.

Buttercup disappeared from its pen at the family home in Hillstone Close, Greenmount, in September last year.

Mrs Power, a florist, said: “I was unsure whether she had been stolen or escaped. But I have now found her wandering along the patio, nine months later, fit as a fiddle.

“Flabbergasted is the word I'd use when I saw her. I was thrilled to bits.

“It’s obvious she has been wandering around and then hibernating somewhere in the garden.

“I thought about her a lot and wondered where she was and whether she was being cared for correctly."

When Buttercup disappeared, her netting had not been broken so Mrs Power assumed someone had picked her out of her pen.

She added: “I still can't understand how she managed to escape her pen but she obviously did and has managed to survive. She seems in perfect health too.

“I used to fuss over her a lot bringing her in when it was cold or wet, but not any more.”