Bristol Evening Post, Saturday 13 June 2009
It's a story which has been circulated on the internet for months and made people around the world chuckle from behind their computer screens.
Touted as a genuine news article, the tale of a Bristol Zoo parking attendant who lined his own pockets with customers' cash for 23 years before going missing with the loot has set cyberspace alight.
But the Evening Post can confirm the story, which has been emailed to thousands of people across the globe in recent months, is nothing more than an urban myth – and the real attendants say the joke is starting to wear thin.
Our newsroom, as well as the offices of Bristol Zoo, has been inundated with messages asking if the story is true, particularly as some versions say it has recently appeared in the Evening Post.
The story has been published on many blogs and forums on the internet and even caught the attention of the police after one person who read it made a complaint.
The story in the email being circulated states the car park at Bristol Zoo has been manned by a single attendant for the past 23 years, who had taken advantage of a mix-up between the zoo and the city council over who was responsible for the operation to collect drivers' money for himself before retiring on the proceeds.
Bristol Zoo insists there has never been any confusion over parking attendants and says it has several attendants and more than one car park – none open to coaches.
A version of the story did appear in the Evening Post two years ago – in a feature on urban myths published to coincide with April Fools' Day.
Parking attendant Cliff Smith, 58, who was on duty at the Clifton Down car park yesterday, said: "I've worked here for about five years and it was about two years ago that this email started to circulate. It was around April time, which might explain things, but we didn't really take much notice of it.
"Then in about April of this year it appeared again. Someone mentioned it to me, then a couple of zoo members said it had been circulated around their companies.
"Three days later a policeman turned up because it had gone to Bath and North East
Somerset Council and someone there had told the police.
"It's getting a bit boring now but it still seems to going around."
Bristol Evening Post website: