Junior Sherlocks from Ludham, Catfield and Happisburgh primaries examine Christmas crime scene at Stalham High School

Presents stolen from Santa's sack, his glass of milk illicitly slurped and bite marks in Rudolph's carrot - the festive finger of guilt was pointing directly at his elves when young sleuths turned up to investigate.

Gifted and talented children from Stalham High's feeder primaries gathered at the school this morning to conduct a Crime Scene Investigation into the outrage, using forensic techniques worthy of TV's popular CSI programme.

CSI Stalham saw 26 children, from schools in Happisburgh, Catfield and Ludham, dusting Santa's glass for fingerprints, comparing elf dental records with marks in the chomped carrot, examining hairs found on his sack under a microscope, comparing suspect elves' handwriting with a suspicious letter to Father Christmas, and checking the content of fairy dust, found at the scene, by using a Bunsen burner.

'It's quite fun using all the equipment - especially being able to use fire at school - and actually investigating ourselves,' said nine-year-old Mimi Ferguson, from Happisburgh Primary School.

Ludham Primary pupil Jordan Oxborrow, 10, had narrowed suspects down to Elf Four after discovering her unique fairy dust matched that sprinkled at the scene.

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'Science is one of my favourite things but I'd never used a Bunsen burner before,' said Jordan.

Stalham High head of science Rachel Hope said the project was educational, fun and an important opportunity to bring together children from Stalham High's widespread and very rural hinterland.

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And in a heartwarming twist to the story, the young scientists later learned that the guilty elf had been watching TV news reports about refugee children around the world who no longer had a chimney for Santa to use. She had taken the gifts to give to them.

Her 'punishment' was a place in Santa's sleigh to help him find them and leave presents.

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