15 of the most bizarre items reported stolen in Canada in 2020

TORONTO — As we near the end of the wildest year most of us have ever lived through, it’s good to know that some things have stayed the same.

The sun still shines. Birds still sing. The Toronto Maple Leafs still can’t get past the first round of the playoffs. And some Canadians still steal unexpected objects, often for no clear purpose.

Yes, not even a year spent under various levels of pandemic-induced lockdown could deter thieves from absconding with such puzzling items as ice cream bars, an X-ray machine, or 21 ducks.

We’ve searched through our files to bring you the 15 Canadian capers from 2020 that most made us scratch our heads in bewilderment.

As always, a theft must have occurred this year and been reported to a Canadian police agency in order to qualify for this list.

A GOLD TRUCK, BUT NOT REALLY

One of the most bizarre stories in Calgary this year started on Feb. 1, when police were told that a pickup truck had been stolen from a repair shop.

That’s fairly standard stuff, as auto theft goes, but what made this burgling unique was that the truck had a series of you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it modifications, including a gold paint job and a major lift.

It didn’t take long for police to catch up with the truck, which had fallen down an embankment and was heavily damaged.

The tale took an even stranger turn more than two months later, when police revealed that they believed the owner of the truck had staged the whole thing in order to collect an insurance payment.

A 23-year-old man was charged with fraud, breaking and entering, and mischief. He was not charged with theft, presumably because the truck had been his all along.

THE SLED FROM ‘COOL RUNNINGS’

Another puzzling theft in Calgary made headlines nearly 5,000 kilometres away.

Part of the bobsled from the 1993 John Candy film “Cool Runnings” had been hanging from the roof of a popular restaurant for years. One day in late October, it vanished.

The thief or thieves clearly planned their caper in advance, as they would have needed a ladder just to get at the sled.

Reached by CTV News Calgary, one of the Jamaican Olympic bobsledders whose story served as the basis for “Cool Runnings” said he was disappointed to learn of the theft of the nose cone and urged it to be returned to the restaurant.

STATUES, SCULPTURES AND GARGOYLES

For whatever reason, public art – or at least art that is displayed publicly – seems to be a magnet for thieves, even though it often finds its way back to its original home.

In January, somebody stole one of the three hand-carved wooden bear statues outside an ice cream shop in Chemainus, B.C.

The store’s owner said it was the third time one of the bears had vanished – and, as had happened before, it eventually turned up. One week later, the bear was found on a nearby road along with a note apologizing for its theft.

That wasn’t the only story about a stolen depiction of an animal to have a happy ending this year. A kangaroo sculpture that vanished from a Calgary art studio in May was recovered within days.

A similar casehappened in Nanaimo, B.C. the following week. Petey, a 45-kilogram gargoyle with glowing glass eyes, was stolen from a home thereand returned two days later.

POPPY

The costume belonging to Poppy, the mascot of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Area (BIA), was stolen from a not-so-secure storage locker in April.

A BIA representative told CTV News Vancouver that he had no idea why anyone would take Poppy, because if the thief ever tried to wear it in public, it would be very obvious how they had obtained the bright, smiling, popcorn-shaped costume.

Poppy is a fixture at summertime events in downtown Vancouver, and its notoriety may have helped police crack the case.

Only a few days after the theft, police were able to return Poppy to the BIA – although its gloves and shoes remained at large.

GRAINS

Most Canadians were taught as children that all healthy foods can be divided into four groups, one of which is grain products.

That probably doesn’t explain any of these heists – large-scale thefts are usually more about making money off the product than consuming it – but it does warm the heart a little bit to think that instead of drugs or cigarettes, these thieves were going after something that’s considered part of a well-balanced diet.

Of course, it would take an awful lot of protein and vegetables to balance out 1,450 kilograms of rice. That’s how much was stolen from a business in Burnaby, B.C. in May. A tipster informed police that the stolen rice was being sold online, and that eventually led investigators to a warehouse where they allegedly found it and plenty of other stolen items.

On the Prairies, meanwhile, it’s not unheard of for grain to be stolen straight from farmers’ fields.

Gary Munford was hit in May, discovering the crime as he was preparing his wheat for sale. The McCord, Sask.-area farmer told CTV News Regina that he believes the theft happened over the winter, while he and his wife were on vacation.

CASH, LATER RETURNED WITH INTEREST

A clerk at a variety store in St. Thomas, Ont. received a rude surprise one day in April – and then a happier one the very next day.

Police reported that a “large sum of money” was taken from the clerk’s wallet while they were working.

The following day, though, a man entered the store and returned the cash. He also gave the clerk a letter of apology and an extra $100.

A SPEED CAMERA

When somebody is unhappy with a traffic camera, the usual practice is to grumble about it to friends and family or on social media.

If the camera happened to flag them for travelling too fast or making an improper turn, the driver has the option of fighting the ensuing ticket in court.

We may never know what was going through the head of the person who picked a third option in Toronto in June.

Police in Canada’s largest city reported that a 360-kilogram photo radar speed camera was somehow stolen from its home near a busy intersection.

Under normal circumstances, police said, the camera would only be moved with the aid of a hydraulic lift.

The camera has not been found and no arrests have been made.

PLANTS

The pandemic had many Canadians taking a greater interest in gardening this year, which may help explain why there were so many cases of trees and plants being reported stolen.

Holy crap, my tree’s missing” was Hugo Huynh’s reaction when his Japanese maple tree was pilfered in May.

Surveillance video from outside Huynh’s house showed a man in a minivan driving up to the property and yanking the maple out of the ground. When he posted it to social media, he received lots of messages telling him garden thefts were rampant in and around Vancouver this year.

One restaurant owner in Surrey, B.C. told CTV News Vancouver that plants had been stolen from her eatery’s patio three times in four months.

But it wasn’t just a B.C. problem. Shirley Horwitz of Windsor, Ont. reported that plants she’d been given for her 89th birthday were uprooted in the middle of the night.

And in Quebec, 500 kilograms of grapes were stolen from a vineyard in Monteregie. The vineyard’s owner said the thief may be surprised to discover that there is no resale market for the grapes.

A PLAYGROUND SLIDE

Suncrest Elementary School in Burnaby, B.C., reopened its doors to students in September – but when it did, part of its playground was cordoned off.

There was a good reason for it: A platform on its play structure that had led to a slide suddenly didn’t lead to anything other than open air.

Somehow, somebody had managed to disconnect and get away with the beloved slide – and according to school officials, it may have taken as long as three weeks for anybody to notice.

SHOES, WITH A POLE

Stealing is bad.

Stealing from a child is arguably worse.

But taking significant time and effort to steal something of little monetary value from a child and a charity at the same time? Is there even a word for that?

The strangest method of theft we came across all year comes from Nanaimo, B.C. – a city that somehow shows up on this list three times.

RCMP reported that surveillance video showed a man spent more than two hours outside a building belonging to an organization that supports children with autism, Down syndrome and other disorders.

He wasn’t trying to get in. What he was trying to do – again, for more than two hours – was retrieve a pair of shoes from inside the building by manoeuvreing what police termed a “long stick” through a hole in the front door.

The shoes belonged to a child who makes use of the organization’s services, police said. The case has not been solved.

A TEENAGER’S DREAM MEAL

Some of these thefts make us shrug our shoulders. Others make us gasp in astonishment. And others may lead to ulcers – not in us, but in the thieves.

That’s the case with this story, in which two men walked into a cash-and-carry store in Halifax and allegedly walked out with a shopping cart full of chocolate bars and energy drinks that they had not paid for.

Police were able to identify and arrest two suspects shortly after the July 19 theft.

Elsewhere on the “container full of stolen food” beat this year, we had four trailers full of frozen crab meat in Moncton, N.B., a Ford Ranger full of meat in Peterborough, Ont., and a wheelbarrow full of watermelons in Chatham-Kent, Ont.

With that kind of haul, we wonder if the thieves were planning to meet up and make use of the 67 barbecues stolen from a Canadian Tire store in Quebec.

BEEF AND HOT TUBS

OK, there’s no evidence suggesting any of those delicious-sounding heists were in any way linked.

But when it comes to the Aug. 30 disappearance of a tractor-trailer hauling $230,000 worth of beef and the Sept. 2 vanishing of a transport truck with seven hot tubs inside, there might actually be a connection. Police think so, at least.

In both cases, RCMP told CTV News Calgary, the trailers were picked up by trucks that were not the ones meant to be grabbing them – but their operators were carrying allegedly forged documents claiming they belonged to a company in Quebec.

Neither trailer has turned up since. Those in the trucking industry say cargo theft is a growing problem, and estimate that it currently leaves manufacturers and distributors out $5 billion per year.

A VINTAGE GAS PUMP

Collectibles are a hot target for a knowing thief.

Everything from comic books to hockey cards is ripe for the picking when a burglar is plugged into the scene well enough to quickly tell the worthless from the priceless.

It must be a much smaller circle of thieves, though, who can assess the value of a vintage gas pump.

But there is a collectibles market for these too, as we learned when one pump was snatched from a backyard in Duncan, B.C. in February.

This particular pump was bright orange, nearly two metres tall, and so old that it possessed an analog dial rather than a digital screen.

A FOOSBALL TABLE

When summertime rolls around, Ahmad Abdulghani is used to seeing people having fun outside his pizzeria.

After all, the restaurant is on a busy street in a popular part of town. And there’s a public square just a few steps away.

This year, though, the vibe was different. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Calgarians were less likely to gather and hang out in the square.

So Abdulghani decided to do something about that. He set up a foosball table in July, and watched with a smiles as passersby realized it was a way to enjoy themselves while maintaining distance.

But the fun came to an abrupt halt in October, when somebody stole the table after the pizzeria closed for the night.

Although there are no known leads for police to work with, foosball has at least returned to the square: an anonymous donor dropped off a replacement table a few days later.

THE SOULAR FUNK WAGON

When police asked the citizens of Nanaimo, B.C. to keep an eye out for a stolen vehicle on April 27, it took only a few hours for them to track it down.

Perhaps that was because the vehicle doesn’t really look like anything else one might encounter on the roads of Nanaimo.

The “Soular Funk Wagon” isn’t really a wagon, more of a cart. It’s partially enclosed, features reclining seats, and contains too many wheels to accurately be called a bicycle.

It belongs to a local community group and is emblazoned with the group’s logo, the vehicle’s name and a pro-climate action message.

All of these features likely help explain why there was such a speedy solution to its theft. No charges were expected to be laid.

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