Found band-aid leads to SPCA theft suspect

By Peter de Graaf -
Bay of Islands SPCA receptionist Glenda Norton (left), office/cattery manager Bev Holdsworth (with Smokey Bear), rescue truck driver George Adams and manager John Logie have two things to celebrate - an arrest and a new van. Photo/Peter de Graaf
Bay of Islands SPCA receptionist Glenda Norton (left), office/cattery manager Bev Holdsworth (with Smokey Bear), rescue truck driver George Adams and manager John Logie have two things to celebrate - an arrest and a new van. Photo/Peter de Graaf

A quick-witted staff member's find of a sticking plaster at the scene of a double burglary at the Bay of Islands SPCA has led police to the alleged offender.

In November, SPCA members were devastated when burglars smashed in the back door of their premises on Waimate North Rd, near Kerikeri, and made off with laptops, a projector and a brand-new TV donated as a raffle prize. They also took a large rug, possibly using it to bundle up pet products freshly stocked up for Christmas.

Staff and volunteers spent a tearful day cleaning up and repairing the door - only for the thieves to return the next night to ransack the rest of the building and steal a truck bought with proceeds from the SPCA op shop.

During the clean-up, a staff member found a sticking plaster on the floor where the rug had been removed. It did not belong to anyone at the SPCA so she carefully bagged it and gave it to police.

When the plaster was tested for DNA, it produced a match on the police database, eventually resulting in an arrest.

Receptionist Glenda Norton said the plaster caught her eye because it was a strange thing to find stuck to the floor where a rug had been. Plenty of people had been into the office after the break-in but all had worn shoes and were unlikely to have shed a plaster.

She picked it up by one corner and popped it into an evidence bag, not expecting anything would come of it.

Bay of Islands SPCA manager John Logie commended the police for going as far as to forensic test a plaster. Future offenders could be deterred if they knew police were willing to investigate so thoroughly, he said.

Everyone at the SPCA was pleased the police had been able to bring someone to justice.

"We thought we were being clever sleuths by spotting the band-aid. We didn't think the police could take it to that level [of DNA testing]," Mr Logie said.

The Bay of Islands SPCA was also grateful for the outpouring of support after the burglaries. As well as messages and donations from around the country, a Waipapa business had donated a replacement TV for the raffle, and the Auckland branch of the SPCA had donated a 2006 Ford Transit van to replace their stolen truck. A staff member's stolen Queen's Jubilee medal has been replaced by the SPCA's national office.

Sonny Strongman is due in the Kaikohe District Court on January 24 charged with burgling the Bay of Islands SPCA. He faces a raft of other, unrelated charges for which he is due in court on February 5. His partner was also arrested and charged but on unrelated matters. The SPCA's Mazda Bongo truck, registration GRS676, is still missing. When stolen, it was navy blue with SPCA on the doors, bonnet and tailgate.

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