AS A superhero he has fought off numerous villains and is said to treasure freedom more than anyone else. But it appears the iconic Silver Surfer has been defeated in a “mindless prank” after his statue went missing from the Atomic Pizza restaurant, in Cowley Road, Oxford.

Matt McKenna, a supervisor at the restaurant, said the staff made the discovery when they arrived for work on Saturday morning.

He said: “We’re obviously quite upset about it. It really is a blow.”

He said the statue of the comic book superhero character – which stood on a surfboard above the restaurant’s entrance – had been in place when he locked up the premises at 11.30pm on Friday.

Restaurant co-owner Martin Bunce said the £1,000 statue was one of a handful made to promote the second Fantastic Four film Rise of the Silver Surfer at cinemas when it was released in 2007. He said he had driven up to Scotland in a van to collect it from a surf shop after acquiring it three years ago.

He said: “We feel that part of the fun of the restaurant has been ripped away, which is a real shame. If we could get it back, it would be fantastic. Even the gesture of returning it would be fabulous but I would be surprised if that happens.

“It’s upsetting that a mindless prank upsets a huge amount of people who appreciated it.”

Thames Valley Police were not available for comment over the weekend.