Indonesian villagers thought they had been blessed by an angel fallen from heaven when a beautiful doll washed up on a beach -- only to discover it was an inflatable sex toy.
Rapidly-spreading reports of a heavenly offering and fears of possible social unrest prompted a police investigation.
Detectives who arrived in the remote spot soon punctured the theory of divine intervention.
“When our officers arrived they saw that the ‘fallen angel’ was just a doll, it was a sex toy,” local police chief Heru Pramukarno told AFP.
Villager Pardin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, found the doll when he was fishing off the remote Banggai islands off Sulawesi in central Indonesia, police said.
The discovery in March came a day after a solar eclipse swept across the area, a deeply spiritual experience in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. This led superstitious locals to believe the two events were linked.
Pardin took the partially inflated doll to his home in Kalupapi village, where it was treated with great reverence.
His mother gave the “angel” a fresh change of clothes and new Muslim headscarf to wear every day, and pictures showed it sitting up in a chair and accompanying locals on a boat trip.
Police decided to investigate after becoming concerned the increasing excitement about the “angel” could lead to unrest.
“We were hearing many stories, such as that the ‘fallen angel’ was crying when she was discovered,” Pramukarno said.
The problem, it seemed, was the remoteness of Kalupapi.
“They have no Internet, they don’t know what a sex toy is.”
After investigating, officers confiscated the doll and took it to the local police station, a move they said was intended to stop false rumours from spreading.
It is not the first time that a sex toy has been mistaken for something else entirely.
In 2012 a Chinese TV station reported a rare mushroom with medicinal qualities had been discovered in a town during drilling for a new well, only for viewers to point out that the object was in fact a sex toy for men.
Sex toys have also sparked police alerts in the past. Several years ago police in China’s Shandong province launched a rescue operation to save what they believed was a woman drowning in a river, only to discover it was actually an inflatable sex doll.