Claws out for pilfering pussycat
A cat burglar, the kind with four legs and tail, is causing a stir in Harbourview, Lower Hutt.
Haku, an ex-stray Turkish angora, is driving owner and children's book author Sally McLennan to distraction, regularly bringing her offerings of laundry pilfered from neighbours.
McLennan says Haku's exploits have become legendary. ''He's stealing up to 14 pieces of clothing per night.''
''I'm having a bit of trouble tracking all the owners down,'' she says.
Haku was found living in a hole in a river bank in Christchurch in 2004. But his criminal activities didn't start until about two months ago, while McLennan was away for a period.
''He almost immediately began stealing clothing and making nests out in the bush, my neighbours tell me.''
''But now I'm home he's piling them in mounds at the bedroom door.''
He's been spotted by neighbours sneaking into houses and raiding drying racks, and is known to have brought home pegs attached to his loot.
''In the two months that he's been doing it, I would say that he's pinched 50 pieces easily.
''Initially I think it was for comfort, while I was away, but now he just seem to want to tell me how much he loves me,'' she says.
Haku's collection includes socks, jerseys, cashmere wraps, children's booties, shirts, and ''all sorts of personal items''.
He seems to particularly like wool and children's clothing, Ms McLennan says.
''People have actually seen him carrying clothing around, and one of the neighbours watched him trying to steal a king size wool duvet off their drying rack.''
His habit has become so bad that on McLennan has set up a Facebook page to help reunite Haku's loot with the owners.
After items are laundered, they are photographed, posted into a gallery on the site, and neighbours can search for their missing clothing.
Haku seems to be ranging as far as four streets away, and Ms McLennan estimates his thievery must have cost some of her neighbours several hundred dollars so far.
Several houses Haku has targeted have been located by good old fashioned door knocking, and about 30 items returned.
''So far people are really good humoured, there's a lot of laughter, and I'm getting to know my neighbours which is actually quite nice.
''Half of them think that they want to adopt him because he's such a character.''
Showing no discretion, Haku has even been known to prey on the laundry of the children of a nearby policeman, McLennan says.
''He's joked we should take him down to the police station and get mug shots of him.''
To read more about Haku or to search for that missing sock, checkout Haku's Facebook page.