A German family's New Zealand holiday took a nasty twist when their car, belongings and passports were stolen only for them to later come across a woman allegedly selling their clothes out of the back of her car.
The Schwarz family, who arrived in Auckland on Boxing Day, had a grim surprise on Saturday evening when they returned to a central Auckland Wilson carpark to find their car had been stolen.
Elke Schwarz, 48, had spent the day on Waiheke Island with her sons Robin, Lukas and Marius and ferried back into the city around 6pm.
But only a few shards of glass marked where Robin's blue Honda Odyssey had been parked.
Schwarz and her two younger boys were in New Zealand for a few weeks, but Robin, 19, had bought the car to use over a five-month stay.
Robin said a man who was also in the carpark called Wilson on their behalf.
"He talked with them and then said to us, 'the Wilson employee said that he can't help'."
Disheartened and helpless without their luggage or passports with which to board their flight the next night, the family filed a police report about the theft.
The next day, Schwarz and the boys headed into the city for food but were shocked to find a silver car parked outside their Queen St backpackers with three women sitting inside - one of whom appeared to be selling clothes to passers-by from one of the family's missing bags.
Schwarz said she stormed over to the car and saw a child in the car was wearing her youngest son's jeans and one of her shirts.
Schwarz confronted the woman and tried to wrestle the suitcase from her but the woman fought back, claiming she had found the suitcase on the street.
However, Schwarz said the women knew more than she should, referencing a car being stolen and a missing tent - despite the fact Schwarz hadn't mentioned these details.
Soon after, a worker at the backpackers called the police on Schwarz's behalf. The family waited outside from 8pm until 11pm, Elke said, but the police never turned up.
While waiting, she approached the woman in the car several times pleading for her help to retrieve their passports.
"I told her it was very important that we get our passports because we needed to get back to Germany. The flight was that evening at 8.45pm."
The woman told them she had "many friends who stole things" and said she would put the word out to help find the passports.
But 8.45pm came and went, and Schwarz and her sons spent another sleepless night in the backpackers.
The next morning the family headed to the German consulate where they acquired temporary passports.
Shortly after the visit, Robin said he spotted his Honda Odyssey on Grafton Rd, headed towards the motorway. He chased the vehicle but soon lost sight of it.
Finally things started going the family's way when Schwarz was contacted by the German consulate later that afternoon.
A group of tourists from the Netherlands had found three of their stolen passports behind a carpark on Grafton Rd. Two were on a path, and the third was perched in a tree.
On Tuesday morning police confirmed the last passport was returned to the family after being handed in by a member of the public.
Inspector Ben Offner said a number of other items were also handed in by this person.
Investigators were following "strong lines of inquiry" to identify those behind the theft and finding the stolen vehicle.
Elke said she wanted the rest of the family's possessions back before they left the country on their rescheduled flight next Sunday.
She was surprised and sad, she said, that this had happened in New Zealand.
"It was a great holiday and New Zealand is a beautiful country," she said.
"But Saturday was a black day for us and we are sad that police can't help us."
Wilson confirmed they were investigating the theft but could not provide comment at this time.