War veteran, 94, ponders fate of missing Mazda

STILL MISSING: Hugh Pickering’s pristine 35-year-old Mazda.
STILL MISSING: Hugh Pickering’s pristine 35-year-old Mazda.

Hugh Pickering's beloved Mazda 323 was probably cannibalised for parts within a week of the pristine 35-year-old vehicle being stolen from his Matamata garage.

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

It was stolen from his garage in Allenby Rd.

WITHOUT HIS WHEELS: Matamata 94-year-old Hugh Pickering has had his 1977 Mazda 323 stolen.
WITHOUT HIS WHEELS: Matamata 94-year-old Hugh Pickering has had his 1977 Mazda 323 stolen.

Mr Pickering discovered the garage door open and the car gone on January 16. The car thief broke in through a small window at the back of the garage.

The garage's alarm was flat and one fitted to the car was turned off.

"My first reaction was ‘What the hell?' I just hope people do the decent thing and bring it back."

Sergeant Graham McGurk, of Matamata, said it was likely the car was stolen to order. "It could have been a relative, a friend or someone living nearby has unwittingly passed on information about the car to the offender."

The editor of Dogandlemon.com, Clive Matthew-Wilson, thought the car would have been stolen to order and he did not think Mr Pickering had much chance of seeing it again.

"My guess is that the car will be sitting in a panel beater's shop being stripped down as we speak. They are quite often stolen in order to provide parts to someone," Mr Matthew-Wilson said.

"The sort of people who steal them are pretty good at making sure it's never seen again."

He said the Mazda 323 was not one of the top 10 stolen cars in New Zealand as it was not a performance vehicle, but was often targeted because it could easily be modified.

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton thought the Mazda had been stolen to order, too.

"It would be pretty identifiable and stand out in Matamata. Given the uniqueness of this vehicle and how recognisable it would be, it's probably almost certainly been targeted and been stolen to order. It's a crying shame that people do this sort of thing."

Kate Smith, manager of insurance company NAC, which specialises in performance and modified vehicles, said Mazdas were sought-after vehicles.

"We have had examples of where they have gone missing from a garage while owners were out for 15 or 20 minutes. We have had them pushed out of garages and towed away while the owners watched TV. It's likely been stolen for order."

She advised owners of such vehicles to have top-of-the-range car and garage alarms installed.

The owner of Hamilton Mazda wrecker Any Mazz Spares, Bryan Buck, said it was likely the car was targeted by "young" thieves who liked the look of the low mileage, rear-wheel-drive car. "I guarantee the car won't be found burnt out. It will be taken for some young guy to drop a rotary [engine] in it."

Mr Buck said the car was unusual as he had not seen any similar complete rear-wheel-drive vehicle come through his yard in years, but despite that it was likely to be worth only $5000.

Mr Pickering's neighbour, Daryl Smith, said people often wanted to take photographs of the car or buy it.

"There's not too many of them around in original condition like that. These scum who go out and do this type of thing don't have any pride in other people's property," Mr Smith said.

Do you know the whereabouts of Mr Pickering's car? Call police on (07) 888 7117.


1. Honda Torneo 2. Nissan Elgrand 3. Subaru Impreza 4. Subaru Forester 5. Subaru Legacy 6. Nissan Skyline 7. Nissan Presea 8. Mitsubishi Libero 9. Nissan Cefiro 10. Nissan Sunny

(Source: AA Insurance claims data 2007-2011)

Waikato Times