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Residents in Stile Hall Gardens were left shocked after falling victims to a green fingered criminal last week.

The incident happened at around 10.00pm on Friday evening when a woman spotted a someone manhandling decorative holly bushes planted in zinc tubs each weighing around 25-30 kilos each from her garden.  The plants were then taken to an old maroon van parked around the corner in Regent Street and put through the sliding side doors.

The suspect was described as looking like a 'gentleman' in his mid-to-late 40s or 50s with thinning blonde hair and wearing a light stone-coloured cotton or linen blazer.

Instead of fleeing the scene of his crime when the woman knocked on her window and started shouting, he returned and took a third pot (two were already in the van) which he only dropped in the street as the woman's husband unlocked their front door to confront him.

The suspect then jumped into the van and screeched off "in a fog of burning rubber".

"It was the sheer brazen nature of the crime which shocked us - both the timing and the complete lack of fear of being caught. Unfortunately the van shot round the corner before I could get the registration." one of the victims told

"An ornamental bay was also taken from the front garden of a house down the road, and a big terracotta pot at our neighbours opposite was shifted, but the thieves left it as it was too heavy to carry.

"Unlike the normal opportunistic thieving from front gardens, this is clearly more systematic. The police speculated that the thieves might be in the landscape gardening trade, and try to resell the items to one of their clients. If this happens locally, publicity on might lead to them being tracked down"

Last month a number of items of brand new garden furniture and plants were stolen from goodness* the night before their opening although Police do not believe that this incident is linked to the Stile Hall Gardens one.

A spokesperson for Chiswick Police said "Unfortunately this type of crime is fairly common at this time of year. If anyone would like to discuss garden security please contact the Crime Prevention Officer on 020 8247 6567."

July 11, 2006