A Whangārei sparky left stranded atop a Domino's Pizza rooftop last Saturday night has been reunited with his missing - and now nationally famous – ladder after the "thief" read his story and stepped forward.
While the story went viral across the nation, it transpired that the ladder had barely left the site where it was last seen after being safely put away on a neighbouring property by a well-meaning observer.
The incident unfolded last Saturday night when Chilltech electrician and refrigeration engineer Tom Clancey had been enjoying a family celebration at the Parua Bay Tavern when he was called out to repair the walk-in chiller rooftop unit at Domino's Pizza Kamo about 7pm.
After securing his aluminium ladder with ties at the lowest point of the roof near Liquorland Kamo, he walked 30m to the Domino's roof, with the ladder out of his view, before carrying out the 45-minute rooftop job and returning.
"I got to the corner of the roof and I was like, 'something is missing'," he said.
He phoned a Domino's staff member to check if they had accidentally removed the ladder, which they hadn't, before patiently waiting for 20 minutes while the staff member rushed home to get a spare ladder to help the trapped engineer down.
The disappearance of the ladder was put down to one of a spate of thefts targeting tradie tools in the region and the ensuing story in the Northern Advocate gathered momentum around the country.
Despite its widespread impact, the "crime" could have been solved a lot closer to home – right next door, in fact. Liquorland Kamo owner Sandeep Singh was alerted to the fact his assumed good deed had gone viral when a staff member showed him the news story on Thursday.
"It was Saturday, about 8.30pm," he recalled. "My staff and I saw this ladder leaning against the cafe wall and we thought the cafe guy must have left it behind. We went over and had a good look around and knocked on the back door but nobody responded. We couldn't see a car or anything parked there and thought 'somebody's going to take it away'.
"We thought we would do a good deed and put it away safely so I put it out the back of the [Liquorland] shop."
Singh said he approached the cafe the following Monday but it was closed. He was away the next two days and when he returned on Thursday, he paid another visit to ask if the ladder was theirs.
"They said, no, it wasn't theirs so I went back and then later that morning another staff member arrived at work and showed me the news story on his phone, and he was just cracking up.
"I was just smiling but I was also wondering why we didn't get approached because we have security cameras."
Singh said he called Chilltech and "we had a laugh about the situation" before Clancy called in that evening to be reunited with his ladder. They had another laugh and Clancy thanked him.
Clancy said that after 18 years on the job neither he nor his colleagues had stories to match this ordeal.
"It turned out to be quite a funny story and I couldn't believe it went viral...my friends and family said [the outcome] restored their faith in humanity."
Clancy said he'd had no callouts this past weekend, and he'd enjoyed an uneventful Saturday night.