Police caught a gang of allotment thieves after holding a bizarre identity parade – of stolen VEGETABLES.
Lawrence Miller, 44, and Steven Randall, 46, were caught carrying a bag of stolen fruit and veg at allotments in Brampton, Cambs.
To get evidence against the duo police lined up the food on the roadside and asked allotment holders to identify their stolen vegetables.
They instantly spotted their crops, including a marrow with a distinctive stripe, rhubarb, leeks and cabbages.
The two offenders were left looking red-faced as beetroot when they were ordered to pay £20 of compensation and £85 costs at Huntingdon Magistrates’ Court.
Miller and Randall, who were both on benefits, were said to be living “in extreme poverty” and stole the vegetables to feed their families.
Both men were granted a conditional discharge.
Prosecutor Penny Cannon said police spotted them run across the road into the allotment and when they stopped and searched them found stolen produce.
She said: “Police carried out a unique investigation by photographing the fruit and vegetables and then putting them on the verge, asking people if they could recognise or identify the vegetables.”
One of the plots had also been damaged on the same night, the court heard,
Kevin Warboys, defending said Randall had not worked since a serious road accident 20 years ago and Miller cannot work due to an ankle injury.
He said: “This may seem trivial but it is not about value, it is about the disruption to the people who grew the vegetables.
“It is about the disruption and upset for the people which, on reflection, they both regret.
“They are day to day grinding along in extreme poverty.”
Mr Warboys said they stole the vegetables to feed their families and had nothing to do with the damage.
Speaking after the case, parish clerk Janet Innes-Clark said: “The police apprehended them and asked me if I would put up a notice because they needed to identify the evidence.
“They asked if any of our allotment holders could identify the vegetables and for them to contact us, which they did.
“They put the vegetables out on a patch of grass in front of the allotments and I think there were two or three marrows, a butternut squash, leeks and a couple of cabbages.”