Community in shock following burglary

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The Waitaki community has been rocked by the burglary of a 94-year-old man’s home, while he was sleeping, in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Police were yesterday awaiting forensic results and urged people to come forward with any information.

Age Concern Waitaki is working with and supporting the elderly Oamaru man, and while he is coping well, the act has brought back painful memories for him.

Age Concern Waitaki co-ordinator Wayne Stringer said the man was a soldier in WWII, and his role was in Graves Registration – burying soldiers in Monte Cassino.

“His whole life revolves around WWII and being a soldier in Italy,” he said.

“(The incident has) taken him back to Monte Cassino – it’s brought back old memories.

“I hope these people have got a conscience.”

The man, who lived alone, had been burgled at his Oamaru home at about 2.45am on Tuesday morning.

Police were not revealing the street name to respect the elderly man’s privacy and due to the fact that inquiries were continuing.

On Tuesday, Oamaru Police Detective Sergeant Dan Keno said the elderly man woke up to noises and was held down while an offender or offenders removed valuable items from his home.

Yesterday, Detective Sergeant Keno said the investigation work continued.

“We have spoken to several people who have given avenues of inquiry,” he said.

“We still want the public to come forward if they hear of anything or think of anything to let us know.”

Mr Keno said the items taken in the burglary were related to the man’s time during WWII.

“They were sentimental to his time in service,” he said.

Mr Stringer said the elderly man was coping well under the circumstances, and had good neighbourhood support.

“The community has rallied around him. His neighbours have just been fantastic,” he said.

“He’s been through combat (during the war) and he did all the right things – he just lay there very still and as soon as they went, he rang 111.”

Waitaki District Council community safety and development facilitator Helen Algar said she was “absolutely appalled” by the incident.

“As a community that cares, we should not tolerate such untenable behaviour,” she said.

“It’s really disappointing that the actions of a few have an impact on the majority.

“Our heartfelt sympathy to the gentleman concerned.”

Mrs Algar urged people to remain vigilant and if they know or see anything, contact the police.

She said the reaction from people in the community was that they were “absolutely disgusted”.

“This is not what we want in our community,” she said.

“People need to remain vigilant and secure their homes at night; have someone they can call and make sure they talk to their neighbours.”

North Otago Grey Power president Rose Gallagher said she was “shocked” to hear of the burglary.

“Whatever is going on in our town, here in Oamaru, is not good,” she said.

“We have an elderly population and neighbours should keep an eye out for each other, especially if one is elderly.

“We do have good community support here and sadly we do need to be alert.

“Like Age Concern, we are appalled by this happening in our community.”

Police urge anyone who may have information that might assist in solving this crime to contact Oamaru Police on 433 1400.

People can also provide information anonymously via the organisation Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

By MEGAN GNAD