"I have the cookie! And you want it," begins the chilling ransom note sent to the Bahlsen biscuit factory in Hanover, Germany.
Constructed in classic kidnapper style from words cut from newspaper headlines, the note was accompanied by a photo of what appears to be the Cookie Monster from US children's show Sesame Street preparing to take a bite out of the 20kg golden biscuit sign which, until recently, hung proudly outside the company’s headquarters.
In the letter, the thief demands that Bahlsen delivers biscuits (preferably its whole-milk range) to a local children’s hospital and donates €1,000 to an animal home, according to the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung (HAZ) newspaper, which printed the photos and a copy of the note.
Despite the resemblance in the photo and the claims in the letter, the real Cookie Monster took to Twitter to deny any involvement in the crime and to pledge to help track down the real culprit.
“Me no steal the golden cookie,” tweeted Mr Monster from the official Sesame Street account. “But me willing to help find real cookie thief!”
Bahlsen is offering a €1,000 reward for information leading to the biscuit’s recovery but has promised to donate 52,000 packs of Leibniz biscuits to social instutions across Germany if it is returned.
In a statement to HAZ, the hospital named in the ransom note said "One cannot forget that what we are dealing with here is a case of theft and blackmail.
"Bahlsen has already done a lot for our hospital – it doesn't need to be coerced in this way."