Two men have been arrested after the theft of four beloved hens from Papatoetoe West School this morning that has left a local community in tears.
Children were "absolutely devastated" when Whitey, Mighty, Tweety and Bluey were stolen and likely killed. Security footage showed the birds being taken out in bags.
The South Auckland school community is reeling after being targeted by thieves for the third time during a Covid-19 lockdown.
The four hens were part of a school programme where children cared for and fed them, as well as collected their eggs.
Pupils even helped construct a swing for them as part of science classes. They were part of the school family, the school said.
School principal Diana Tregoweth told the Herald she learned of the hens' fate this morning when a neighbour of the school rang her to report what looked like a group of people stealing them.
"She rang me in absolute tears. Not one but all four of them had been taken.
"She said they had climbed over two fences to get into the chicken run, which was quite a sturdy run so it was obviously well thought out."
The teacher who has been looking after the chickens during lockdown raced to the school.
The hens were seen being carried away in bags, which has led the school community to believe the thieves probably killed them before taking them.
"If they could only realise how devastated not only the children are, but everyone who looks after the hens," Tregoweth said.
The neighbours were able to get a few photos and security camera footage, which will be reviewed.
A police spokesperson told the Herald this evening that two men, aged 32 and 37, were arrested as a result of information from the Papatoetoe community.
Both men have been charged jointly with burglary and are due to appear in the Manukau District Court in the coming days.
They have also been issued with infringement notices for breaching Covid-19 alert level 4 restrictions.
"Sadly, we have not been able to locate Whitey, Mighty, Tweety and Bluey at this time and we have expressed our condolences to the children and staff of Papatoetoe West School," the spokesperson said.
School parent Sarah Warfield said the Covid-19 lockdown was bad enough for adults.
"Children are also finding this time hard with separation from their friends and family and loss of routine without these sorts of people stealing from them.
"Yes, we know where the chicken in the supermarket and KFC comes from, but that doesn't excuse what these people did and it is disappointing to see these people treat the young children of our community with such low regard."
It's the third time Papatoetoe West School has been targeted by thieves during Covid-19 lockdowns. Last year its swimming pool was broken into. The pump, chemicals, and the pool's cleaning machine were stolen.
And last week the school was broken into again, although Tregoweth said it was difficult to determine whether just a few things had been upturned or anything was stolen.