A PET ferret who ran a marathon to raise money for a children’s charity has seen donations top £2,300 – and celebrated by escaping.

Eight month-old Bandit ran 26.2 miles in just over two weeks in Oxford’s Shotover Woods. He was led by owner Jim Woods, his wife Arabella and their children Rosie, 14, and Poppy, 12, who live nearby.

Celebrations were cut short, however, when Bandit escaped shortly after finishing, earlier this month.

One walker even reported seeing him in a dog’s mouth. Though just as his owners resigned themselves to never seeing him again, he returned, three days later scratched and dishevelled.

Bandit became a celebrity after his attempt to raise money for the Children’s Book Project – a charity helping children to learn at home – first appearing in the Oxford Mail.

After seeing our story, newspapers and radio stations clamoured to feature the fabulous ferret, and his story was even read out on the Elis James and John Robins show on BBC 5 Live, and the popular comedians' podcast, which has gained cult appeal during the lockdown.

Mr Woods said: "Bandit had become a local celebrity, with people coming up and asking if he’s the real Bandit. It was very amusing, and he raised £2,300, enough to fund the delivery of 19,000 books for the Children’s Book Project.

Read again: Bandit the ferret sets out to raise thousands for kids charity by running marathon

"Then he escaped! My daughter was playing with him and he went into the next door neighbour's garden, which is not unusual. But he was chased by a cat to the fence on the other side, where a dog started chasing him... and before anyone knew anything he was 500 metres away.

"Ferrets can only see 2ft, and they are not good at finding their way home.

Oxford Mail:

"The rest of that Saturday and the whole of the Sunday saw us and our neighbours looking for him. He was sighted around a mile away by a dog owner whose terrier, Huxley, had him in his jaws. And there was another sighting near Horspath.

"After hours walking and tracking the red kites, our distraught children finally gave up. We had told ourselves that he had found a local polecat family and we were grateful that we hadn’t taken his balls off as we would see some little blond polecats in a year’s time.

Oxford Mail:

"But then, on Monday morning, he returned. A cut on his leg, a few ticks, and so exhausted he couldn’t stay awake. Never has a family been so happy It was like Christmas had come early!

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"Someone worked out that, given his average speed for the marathon, he was away for exactly the right amount of time to run it on his own. They felt he just wanted to show us he could do it all in one go!"

“The little fella made an amazing effort – and we are so happy to have him back.”

Oxford Mail:

The first delivery of books went out two weeks ago to 13 Oxfordshire schools: Rose Hill Primary, John Henry Newman, St Francis Primary, St Philip & St James, St Joseph's, Cherwell Academy, Stephen Freeman, GEMS, Wooton St Peter's Primary, Lark Rise Primary, Bayard's Hill and Willowcraft.