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102-year-old Tunisian tortoise is guest of honour at wedding

PUBLISHED: 11:45 25 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:03 25 July 2019

Emma and Ric Washington fell in love with tortoises eight years ago. Picture: Winston Sanders Photography

Emma and Ric Washington fell in love with tortoises eight years ago. Picture: Winston Sanders Photography

Winston Sanders Photography

It could have been the slowest ever walk down the aisle.

Sammy the tortoise is from Tunisia and is believed to have been owned by a soldier. Picture: Winston Sanders Photography.Sammy the tortoise is from Tunisia and is believed to have been owned by a soldier. Picture: Winston Sanders Photography.

But fortunately, the guest of honour at Emma and Ric Washington's wedding was spared the trek - for he is a 102-year-old tortoise.

Sammy, from Tunisia, was at the centre of the ceremony and the reception when the Washingtons tied the knot in Palgrave, near Diss.

He met the couple two years ago when they adopted him from Norfolk Tortoise Club (NTC), and has lived with them at Thorpe St Andrew ever since.

Mrs Washington, who volunteers at NTC, said she was struck by Sammy's personality: ""He was really good company. He came across as a good natured little guy and very mellow and gentle."

Sammy is 102 years old. Picture: Winston Sanders Photography.Sammy is 102 years old. Picture: Winston Sanders Photography.

When the couple, both 36, who met as students at the University of East Anglia 13 years ago, finalised their wedding guest list, Sammy was made guest of honour.

Mrs Washington, originally from Sheffield, said: "He's part of our family - and you take your family to your wedding. He was right by me as we had the ceremony."

At the ceremony in Mrs Washington's father's garden in Palgrave, Sammy was seated in a purpose-built outdoor enclosure.

On the seating plan the reptile was joined by the couple's other tortoises, Clyde, 14, and Esther, two.

Emma Washington with Sammy the tortoise on her wedding day. Picture: Winston Sanders PhotographyEmma Washington with Sammy the tortoise on her wedding day. Picture: Winston Sanders Photography

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The trio spent the day eating Mrs Washington's bouquet of roses after they turned their noses up at the wedding cake. But they were popular with the other wedding guests.

Mrs Washington said: "Everyone was asking about them - and told me they wanted them."

Tortoises also made other appearances at the wedding as they were on the wedding certificate and the invitations.

The newlyweds first developed an obsession with tortoises on holiday in Florida, USA eight years ago. Mrs Washington said they came across tortoises by "pure chance" on the trip and a week later, in Norwich, a neighbour was giving one away.

She added: "It was pure fluke. Our neighbour's child no longer wanted their tortoise and it needed to be rehomed. We took up the offer straightaway."

She also began volunteering at NTC. Volunteers look after ill and vulnerable tortoises and they run micro chipping events.

Mrs Washington said that they made a good pets because they were all different.

She added: "But they also like a massage."

■ www.tortoiseclub.org

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