HUTTON, England (AP) _ For nine months, the mystery of Bobby the missing garden gnome had baffled the people of this western England village.

In September, Pam and Gordon Barwick discovered the 10-inch carved-stone gnome missing. In his place was a note saying: ''Gone off for a few months on my holidays. Don't worry. I'll be back.''

Then the postcards began to turn up - ''wish-you-were-here'' messages, all signed ''Bobby,'' from Norway, Denmark and Sweden, then Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, Austria, Italy and Yugoslavia, and finally the Greek island of Corfu.

''We were absolutely baffled,'' said Mrs. Barwick, 55.

Then one morning last week, Bobby was back in the Barwick's garden, wearing sunglasses and clutching a miniature travel bag with toothbrush, toothpaste and holiday photos. One showed him in a Norwegian bar with a blonde woman.

A note beside the gnome said: ''Had a lovely time. It's nice to be back with the family. I will try not to disappear again.''

The local paper, the Mercury, did some digging and on Friday exposed the culprits: Michael Sanders, 22, and Steve Kerslake 24, who cheerfully admitted taking Bobby with them on their camper tour of Europe.

''Bobby's back intact and we've had a good laugh,'' Mrs. Barwick told The Associated Press.