New Zealand garden gnome thefts 'fund meth trade'

Garden gnomes and ornaments Image copyright Tommy Livingston/Stuff.co.nz
Image caption Just say gnome: Police say it's unclear if the homeowner had bought the ornaments or received them in exchange for meth

It's not often that garden gnomes get caught up in a drug-related crime spree, but police in New Zealand say a spate of thefts from gardens is likely to be linked to the trade in methamphetamine.

Officers in the North Island region of Hawke's Bay found more than 300 stolen outdoor ornaments at a property that was having its power cut off after running up a huge bill, the Stuff.co.nz news website reports. Sgt Cam Donnison says that often a missing gnome is the result of "drunken high jinx" or youngsters pulling a prank, but that this was an organised operation.

"It seems to be the fashion at the moment. They are taking these items to hock off for methamphetamine - it's all meth driven," he tells the site. Such items can be easily sold on to raise quick cash, he says - as much as NZ$300 ($215; £170) for a big plant pot. Meth is a highly addictive stimulant and a class A drug in New Zealand, with stiff penalties for anyone manufacturing or supplying it.

As well as the gnomes, police found pots, garden statues and some ornamental pink flamingos. Some of the items had already been reported missing, and police say they will now try to reunite them with their owners.

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