Support for war vet after 'gutless' car theft

WITHOUT HIS WHEELS: Matamata 94-year-old Hugh Pickering, whose 1977 Mazda 323 was stolen.
WITHOUT HIS WHEELS: Matamata 94-year-old Hugh Pickering, whose 1977 Mazda 323 was stolen.

Offers of help for a Matamata war veteran whose car was stolen have been pouring in from near and far, much to the surprise of the man himself.

Pensioner Hugh Pickering's beloved 35-year-old Mazda 323 was stolen from his garage in Allenby Rd on January 16.

The 94-year-old World War II veteran bought the car new in 1977 and had only recently used it to visit the grave of his late wife, Iris, and to do the grocery shopping.

News of the theft angered residents of Matamata and New Zealand alike, with two brothers from Porirua in Wellington sparking a fundraising campaign via Facebook and Trade Me.

Fairview Motors in Matamata has also offered to lend a car to Mr Pickering to use as long as he can still drive.

But Mr Pickering was not sure he wanted all the fuss, telling neighbour Ken Smith he was not sure whether to accept the help. "He asked me what he should do," Mr Smith said.

Porirua brothers Joel, a spray-painter, and Joshua Briggs set up a Facebook campaign after learning of Mr Pickering's situation, outlining their various fundraising endeavours.

They include a Trade Me auction, a sausage sizzle and Joel trying to win a sculpture competition.

The pair have never met Mr Pickering, but said they were touched when they heard about his plight.

"It wasn't a very nice thing to do to a guy that age," Joel Briggs said.

"By the looks of it, he put a lot of time and love into that car to keep it in such good condition."

The Briggs brothers' Facebook page asks people to make donations to a special bank account, and they are also auctioning off a 6 centimetre Mazda RX7 toy on Trade Me. Over $1000 has been donated into the account and bids are now over $500 on the auction.

They plan to make the trip to Matamata in a couple of weeks with all the donations they have collected in the hopes Mr Pickering can get a replacement car with it.

Meanwhile, Fairview Motors' Vaughan Nowell said he had been to see Mr Pickering and had offered to lend him a 2001 Ford laser for as long as he was still fit to drive. Mr Pickering is yet to take him up on the offer.

Mr Nowell felt sad for Mr Pickering as the theft had taken away his independence to some extent.

"It was a gutless thing to do really - they obviously targeted him."

Waikato Times