Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Prime Minister John Key 'screamed' when face-to-face with burglar in his home

John Key said, from memory, he had been burgled about four times, all incidents coming before he was elected Prime Minister. Photo / Dean Purcell
John Key said, from memory, he had been burgled about four times, all incidents coming before he was elected Prime Minister. Photo / Dean Purcell

Prime Minister John Key has revealed he once confronted an intruder who broke into his Parnell home on a stormy night - screaming when he went downstairs and saw the burglar.

At his post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon, Mr Key said, from memory, he had been burgled about four times, all incidents coming before he was elected Prime Minister.

Mr Key was burgled twice when he lived in Wellington. In one case no suspect was caught, in another his house was cleaned out, and police eventually caught a burglar who also stole his wife Bronagh's new car.

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"They stole Bronagh's birthday present at the time which was a pink Honda City. That was of some amusement at the time to the cops that I would be stupid enough to buy her a pink Honda City."

Another break-in came when Mr Key and his wife were at their home on St Stephens Ave in Parnell, at the time when he was Opposition leader.

"I went downstairs and there was a burglar there. The wife sent me down to sort it out," Mr Key recounted.

"We thought the alarm was going off because the weather was so bad. As it turned out, it was actually someone downstairs. I started screaming, and next thing you know the cops turned up."

Mr Key said the intruder, who broke in about 3am, ran as soon as he saw him. The police "turned up with an Alsatian" in a matter of minutes, but couldn't catch the criminal.

"I'm sure he wasn't very scared of me."

The Herald is running a series focusing on burglaries, after national resolution rates fell into single figures (9.3 per cent) for the first time.

Mr Key did not think he received preferential treatment from police at the time of the break-in, but he did have extra security at the time given he was National leader.

"Helen Clark was Prime Minister when somebody went into her house. It happens."

In another incident, John Anthony Clark, a prolific burglar with more than 160 convictions, was jailed in July 2009 for five years and three months after admitting to a string of burglaries.

He took at least $100,000 of property over a six-month spree in 2007 -- including from Mr Key's Parnell home -- to feed his P addiction.

Between 6.58pm and 8.05pm on July 7, 2007, while the Key family were on holiday in Hawaii, Clark scaled the 2m wall surrounding the St Stephens Ave property and jemmied open a kitchen window.

He stole watches, jewellery, an iPod, a handycam, a jewellery box, house keys and clothing belonging to Mr Key and his wife, Bronagh.

Clark was unaware the burgled home belonged to Mr Key, who was then the National Party leader.

This afternoon, Mr Key said he could understand the frustrations of homeowners who were burgled, with no subsequent arrests.

Despite the low resolution rates, he said the overall burglary rate was dropping, along with the overall crime rate.

"I can absolutely understand the frustration of people when they are burgled. People feel, and rightly so, that it is an invasion of their privacy. They feel violated by that, often.

"There is a lot of pain and suffering from burglary. I think the police genuinely do what they can to successfully resolve burglaries. But you will appreciate, that sometimes they just don't have a lot of leads."

- NZ Herald

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