Travelling to New Zealand was a dream that Greta Philipp spent four years saving toward.
But what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime may be over before it began, thanks to thieves who fleeced the 18-year-old German tourist and her boyfriend of nearly everything they brought here.
She and Theo Goeken, 19, arrived in Auckland last week for a two-month trek around the north and south islands in a rental car.
Their last stop before setting off on their adventure was to Westfield St Lukes Shopping Centre, where, just before midday yesterday, they left their vehicle parked with a blanket covering their backpacks.
When Philipp returned to the car, she quickly realised something wasn't right.
Thieves had tried to enter the vehicle through a door lock, before smashing a window, leaving broken glass littered across the floor.
She then looked beneath the blanket to find that both their backpacks were gone.
"At first I thought Theo must have put them on the front, then I looked around and saw the glass on the floor, and that everything inside was gone," she said.
"I started crying and screaming. I was extremely upset. Then I started shaking … it was a horrible experience."
Despite being visibly upset, she said no passersby came to her aid. Eventually, one woman took her to the information station at the mall, where she and Goeken phoned police.
Surveillance camera footage captured two people stealing their belongings, and also showed the registration number of the vehicle they used.
Yet Philipp said police told her it wouldn't be possible to collect fingerprints from their damaged car.
"They said it may take a week, and that they can only come if we don't drive [the car] away. But we couldn't leave it there, because the window was open and someone was going to steal it."
With the car park closing at the end of the day, the couple were forced to move the vehicle, and police advised them to return it to the rental agency.
She said two backpacks – missing most of their contents – were later found in a nearby park by a local man who handed it in to police, yet managed to get it back to the couple instead by phoning Philipp's mother in German using details on a tag attached.
Another remained missing.
As of this afternoon, she said she was no closer to recovering their belongings – and remained frustrated that police hadn't tracked the thieves down yet.
"It's a huge loss for us because everything that was valuable to us – including all of our clothes and my camera – is gone. It was worth about $3000 to $4000, and everything will have to be replaced."
Luckily, the couple still had their credit cards, passports and phones.
Coming to New Zealand was something she'd been saving for since she was 14, she said.
"Finally, after I graduated, I had enough money. We wanted to stay here for two months, but at this point, I'm not sure if we have enough money to continue."
A Givealittle page has been set up to support the couple.
A police spokesperson said inquiries had been made into accessing the CCTV footage, which would form part of the investigation.
People with information about the incident were asked to contact Auckland City Police by phoning 105 and quoting file number 200106/9105, or leaving an anonymous tip through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
"Police remind all members of the public - tourists and locals - to ensure that they always remove visible property and valuables from vehicles when unattended to prevent being targeted by opportunistic thieves," the spokesperson said.