Serial garden thief caught red-handed at Auckland family home

Jessie and Claire Stewart have had their herbs stolen. But they're not the thief's first victims.
Hugh Collins / Fairfax NZ

Jessie and Claire Stewart have had their herbs stolen. But they're not the thief's first victims.

An illicit garden raider is on the loose in Auckland's Mt Roskill.

On September 27 Denny Ave resident Claire Stewart caught a man red-handed stealing from her Auckland home's backyard herb patch after seeing an unidentified figure walk down the drive. 

She investigated and discovered an elderly man crouching over her herb garden with scissors.

"It was a bit surreal when I went out there and found out he wasn't who I thought he was going to be, like a courier or something like that," Claire says.

But rather than fleeing in shock, the man simply smiled and bowed.

"I don't know what he thought I would say but of course I swore a bit and said 'you're trespassing, what do you want', and he continued to bend down and thought that he could take some more."

When Claire pulled some herbs off him, he fought back by pulling them out of her hand. 

The thief proceeded to take off on a bike with a box of other herbs, fruit and vegetables. 

The following day Claire spotted him again - this time heading down her neighbour's drive.

She attempted to follow him in her car but says she couldn't see him, assuming he probably went out the back of the property and into the War Memorial Park.

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Claire's daughter Jessie posted about the incident on Neighbourly.co.nz and had a shocking response. 

It turns out the thief is not an unfamiliar visitor to the area, with a number of residents responding saying they too have been stolen from by the man. 

It has been alleged by a user on the site the thief's been known in the area for a few years and sells stolen goods at the Wesley Community Centre markets. 

As a result Claire visited the markets the following Friday. 

"There he was, in the same clothes he had worn when he walked down the back here," Claire says. 

She captured a photo and intends to use it with a police report.

Claire says if he knocked on the door she'd be happy to let him through if he intended to use the herbs for himself. 

"He's obviously making a profit from something other people are growing.

"There was one lady [on Neighbourly] that said he'd stripped all the lemons off her tree," Jessie says.

Despite appearing to speak minimal English, the Stewarts believe the thief must know what he's doing. 

"He needs to be talked to by somebody otherwise he just won't stop," Claire says.  

 - Stuff

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