HER heroines might have been impulsive but as an author Jane Austen never lost her head – until now.

A stone bust of the prolific author was once the centrepiece of the Jane Austen Garden on Lyme’s seafront – but has now mysteriously gone missing.

The statue was taken away during the coastal development works and was due to be the showpiece once again when the revamped garden – opposite Jane’s Café on the Marine Parade – was finished.

One of Jane Austen’s distant relatives, Diana Shervington, has been working closely with the Lyme Regis Environment Group to finish the planting in the garden, which was due to take place when the weather improves.

They are appealing to anyone in the town who might know where Jane Austen’s head has gone to get in touch.

Merry Bolton, chairman of the environment group, said: “We can’t find Jane Austen’s head anywhere. We can’t find it in the store where all the things from the Jane Austen Garden were kept when all the works were going on.

“I have been on to Lyme Regis Town Council and West Dorset District Council about it and they can’t find it – does anybody know what happened to it?”

Ms Bolton said the garden was the last area to be affected during the coastal works so the bust would have been removed in 2006 but she has no idea who took it for safe keeping.

Mrs Shervington, who lives in Lyme Regis, is related to Jane because both of her grandmothers – who were sisters – were granddaughters of Jane’s brother Edward.

She is a long-standing member of the Jane Austen Society and regularly gives talks about her ancestor locally and around the country, when she shows family mementoes from Jane herself.

She said: “The bust used to stand up there grandly at the back very visibly. When the garden was dedicated the bust was very much in evidence, therefore we want it back – I hope the mystery can be cleared up.”

Anyone who can help solve the mystery should contact Merry Bolton on 01297 443334.