A solo mother whose hard-earned Christmas presents were stolen from under her tree by a brazen burglar helped police capture the "Bad Santa" after she found her own property for sale on social media.

And the Herald on Sunday can now reveal how police had to unwrap all of the presents under the alleged burglar's tree to see if it was stolen as his horrified family watched on.

On Friday a 23-year-old man appeared in the North Shore District Court charged with burglary after the break-in at the woman's Hillcrest home on December 14.

He allegedly broke into the home during the day while Angela, who did not want her surname published, was at work and her little boy at daycare.

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Among the haul of stolen items was Angela's television, iPad, jewellery, alcohol and Christmas presents from under the tree.

A burglar allegedly stole this bike from under a solo mum's Christmas tree and gave it to his own child. Police raided his home and recovered the present. Photo/NZ Police
A burglar allegedly stole this bike from under a solo mum's Christmas tree and gave it to his own child. Police raided his home and recovered the present. Photo/NZ Police

Police dubbed their investigation into the burglary Operation Bad Santa and were able to recover some of the pinched property including the bike Angela's son was supposed to get for Christmas.

The saga unfolded when Angela got a call from police in Mangere saying her passport had been handed in.

She initially thought they had made a mistake but the station was closed by the time she called them back.

When she got home she realised there was no error - she had been burgled.

"The curtains were closed and I had left them open, the front door was open and I just thought 'I've been robbed'," she said.

"I walked into the house and noticed straight off that the TV was gone."

The burglar had ransacked the house, going through Angela's drawers and cupboards.

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Wrapped Christmas presents were stolen from a cupboard as well as the bike she'd bought her son that was under the tree, and most of her jewellery.

"It was such a shock," she said.

"I couldn't believe someone had done this a week before Christmas.

"The presents weren't expensive, they were things that I'd been collecting - I'd been so organised and bought everything and wrapped it early.

"I was so upset that someone would do this."

Angela called police and they began investigating. She did not expect them to find the person responsible, or get her stuff back.

"I'm a solo mum and I worked really hard to buy this stuff - then someone comes and takes it away.

The day after the burglary Angela decided to look on Trade Me and Facebook marketplace to see if her jewellery was being hocked off.

She soon found a bracelet she had been given when she was 21 - and when she looked at the seller's other listings, saw other items missing from her home.

"In one of the photos there was a little cocktail measuring cup that was mine," she said.

"In another picture there was a child in the background playing with a some toy cars and I remembered I had bought those for my son.

"I went 'oh my God' he's given my child's presents to his own kid.

"I got really mad, you just can't go around taking other people's things."

Angela sent police screenshots of the Facebook listings and they contacted her yesterday to say they had executed a search warrant at a South Auckland address and made an arrest.

"It was really awesome, I was so surprised," she said.

Police allege the 23-year-old had re-gifted the stolen items to his own family for Christmas.

As the alleged offender's horrified family watched on, officers unwrapped presents under his tree and sent photographs of the items to Angela to see if they were hers.

They also found her son's bike - which the 23-year-old had allegedly removed from the box, constructed and gifted to his child.

Angela felt terrible when she heard that child had to watch police open presents and take things away.

"I felt really bad about that, the kid didn't deserve that," she said.

Last night police who worked on Operation Bad Santa planned to visit Angela and deliver another present for her little boy.

The gift had been donated to police and they wanted her son to have it given not all of her property was recovered.

"The police have been really awesome," Angela said.

"They have done an amazing job."

She spent much of yesterday driving around Auckland replacing stolen gifts and items that her insurance company had covered.

"Having to pay the excess right before Christmas is really stressful," she said.

"It's such a busy time of the year at work and then having to deal with the police and all of this at the same time has been extra stress."