There is a saying in the news industry that “dog bites man” is not a story but “man bites dog” is, because reporting is about telling stories that go beyond the ordinary.
Stolen vehicles are usually an example of “dog bites man” news. If that vehicle is full of milk or Blundstones, though, it’s veering into “man bites dog” territory. Ditto if it’s a food truck or if it left tracks that made it easy to find.
And while break-ins at homes and businesses are unfortunately common, odds are they’ll only get news coverage if the thief makes off with something unusual, such as antique chainsaws or used cooking oil or an entire kitchen.
In that spirit, we’ve put together a look at some of the strangest thefts reported to Canadian police services in 2019.
From a large amount of water to a little bit of sand, the stories on this list prove that solving crime is never a day at the beach.
‘OLD TOWN ROAD’ SIGNS
The song of the summer provided a small community in B.C. with an unexpected bout of entrepreneurship.
Lil Nas X’s ‘Old Town Road’ climbed the charts in record-breaking fashion, fuelled in part by controversy over its removal from Billboard’s ranking of country songs.
As the song’s popularity grew, so did the rate of disappearance of street signs along an actual Old Town Road in Sicamous, B.C.
Realizing that there was a demand for the signs, community leaders started selling them for $25 apiece. Officials said they sold some to people from as far away as Las Vegas and Belize.
At industrial scales, iceberg water is primarily used to make products such as vodka and cosmetics.
Given that, one can forgive Iceberg Vodka for believing that the water held in tanks at its warehouse in Port Union, N.L. would be safe from bandits.
But that wasn’t the case. One of its tanks was drained over a weekend while the warehouse was closed, and thieves made off with about 30,000 litres of iceberg water – enough to fill a tractor-trailer or to make 150,000 bottles of vodka.
A SNUGGLING GOAT
When a farm on Vancouver Island opened its doors for a baby goat-snuggling event, its owners never suspected that one of the snugglers would turn out to be a smuggler.
But that’s exactly what happened at a farm in Ladysmith, B.C., in April.
As the farm’s owner was packing up from the event, he realized that one of the baby goats was missing. Only 12 days old, the goat was still surviving on milk from its mother.
A FENCING MASK SIGNED BY THE CAST OF ‘THE PRINCESS BRIDE’
The only word to describe this case is “inconceivable.”
Jaspaul Sandhu’s car was stolen in July from a parking lot in Calgary.
The auto theft would have been bad enough on its own, but Sandhu had left a number of rare items inside, including fencing and rock climbing equipment and a priceless possession – a fencing mask signed by cast members from the 1987 movie “The Princess Bride.”
BOB BELL’S BELL
A quiet intersection outside Edmonton has been known as “Bell’s Corner” for decades. It got its name from the Bell family, who have long maintained a farm on one corner.
A large bell was hung at the intersection in 2008 by Bob Bell, as a tribute to his grandparents. Dating back to 1903, the 320-kilogram bell had previously spent half a century at a church and then another 20 years outside Bell’s car dealership.
The bell was swiped from its home in April. Local police said it was the first time they were aware of a bell being stolen in the area.
A LOT OF ALCOHOL
Alcohol thefts aren’t exactly rare. One Alberta liquor store chain estimated that it dealt with more than 18 thefts per day last year. More recently, Ontario’s liquor retail operator has ramped up security at some of its most frequently targeted stores, while its Manitoba counterpart has started naming and shaming people accused of stealing from it.
Some thefts, though, manage to stand out. Take the man who was accused of stealing $58,000 worth of alcohol from stores in Toronto over a little more than a year, or the case of a tractor-trailer full of beer stolen elsewhere in Ontario.
Thieves in Vancouver in June were less lucky. They thought they were stealing 22 bottles of liquor from a bartending school, but soon discovered that it was only coloured water.
THE MAKINGS OF A MEAL
Much like alcohol thefts, heists involving meat aren’t exactly uncommon – but sometimes the scale or circumstances of the crime are weird enough to make it newsworthy.
Lobster is a common target for East Coast thieves; 60 pounds of it was swiped off of a boat in February, and 48 crates – worth an estimated $25,000 – were taken from a P.E.I. storage facility and later recovered.
Far more valuable than the lobster was the $187,000 cheese shipment that was allegedly picked up by a stranger with fake paperwork.
A DUNK TANK
Ashtin Anderson has the same question about this story as all of us: “Who would steal a dunk tank?”
That’s exactly what happened in Boyle, Alta. in July. The local agricultural society had rented the dunk tank to use in a fundraiser. The event was apparently successful, as organizers didn’t get to bed until 3:30 a.m.
When the first organizer returned at 6 a.m., though, the tank had vanished.
A photo circulated on social media showing people playing in the tank after-hours, seemingly still in the same spot it was during the fundraiser, but that evidence was not enough to solve the mystery.
Giving a key to a trusted neighbour before leaving for vacation is a good way to get peace of mind – except in this case.
A resident of Tillsonburg, Ont. returned home in August after a lengthy absence and discovered an extension cord running from their home into their neighbour’s.
The neighbour was charged with theft of electricity. Stealing or wasting electricity or gas carries the same criminal penalty as any other form of theft.
A PECULIAR PILLOW
It isn’t what was stolen that made a September heist in West Vancouver unusual – it’s what happened next.
Police officers responding to a report of a bag of tools stolen from a construction site decided to search a nearby forest.
Inside the forest, they allegedly found a man sleeping on the ground, with his head resting on the very tools that had been reported stolen.
He was arrested for possession of stolen property and unrelated offences.
SHORTY AND OTHER STATUES
Shorty, a small statue of a sailor caricature, quickly became a popular attraction after it was placed in Peggy’s Cove, N.S. in 2018.
The statue vanished from its home in April – but unlike many of the capers we’re describing, this one had a happy ending.
Students from Dalhousie University contacted Shorty’s owner, telling her they had found the statue in a house in Halifax in what they believed was “a prank gone wrong.”
Shorty was returned to Peggy’s Cove and soon joined by a Mrs. Shorty.
Other prominent statue thefts this year include the head from a statue of St. Vladimir outside a church in Winnipeg, a giant head from a tourist attraction in P.E.I., a sculpture of a nude woman at a Vancouver art gallery, and a large golden egg from a Salvador Dali piece in Vancouver.
A BIG PUMPKIN
A Halloween-season theft at a fruit stand in B.C. was neither a trick nor a treat.
Penticton farmer Parmjeet Dhaliwal said her “masterpiece” 40-kilogram pumpkin was snatched just before she had planned to carve it.
Surveillance camera photos showed two people looking at the pumpkin, but it was not clear if they were responsible for the theft. Dhaliwal said it was the second time she’d been hit by pumpkin thieves.
A pumpkin theft in Calgary a few weeks earlier left a four-year-old girl upset, as the gourd had been growing in her garden all summer. Two waste management workers heard about that theft and responded by hand-delivering two pumpkins to the girl’s home.
Whether a beach is public or private, somebody owns it – and that means nothing there is free for the taking.
That lesson was learned by a beachgoer in Port Stanley, Ont., who was approached by police after they allegedly noticed him filling a bucket with sand.
Police say the man told them he was going to take the sand home and use it to level stones in his garden.
They responded that if he wanted to avoid a theft charge, he should purchase sand legally.
It was the perfect setup for a crime of opportunity: A supermarket in Kingston, Ont. was accidentally left unlocked overnight.
With no employees around, it would have been easy for any would-be thieves to abscond with cartfuls of meat, baby food, razors and other valuable goods.
Although plenty of people had the chance, wandering into the store and realizing nobody could stop them, not a single item was reported stolen.
After reviewing security camera footage, the store’s manager said it was clear the customers all left the supermarket after they realized it wasn’t supposed to be open.