The pond before the crime wave


Today’s story is a crime story with everything a good crime story needs: An idyllic setting, a crime wave, missing bodies, mystery, violence in the dead of night, a criminal unmasked.

To begin at the beginning, keen followers of this blog will remember that some years ago I almost wrecked my knees creating a small wild-life pond in our garden.

At first, little wild-life came, but If you build it, he will come – one by one they did come: the dragonflies, the foxes… and the frogs.

Not many frogs in the first year, but last year the pond filled with spawn, then tadpoles, froglets and finally mature frogs.

This year, we expected the same. The spawn arrived, on cue, thanks to great frog activity. But then nothing. The spawn didn’t hatch. Indeed it started to disappear.

A mystery.

Fearing some kind of toxicity in the water, I got a test kit with real test-tubes. No half-measures when it comes to the Hercule Poirot of Hampstead.

The water seemed fine – except for a lack of oxygen. That, though, was easily sorted, thanks to Shenzhen Aisitin Technology who make a brilliant little solar-powered fountain.

Problem solved. Water oxygenated and waiting for the frogs to return next year.

Or at least it was until I went out in the garden two months later and found the fountain lying on the grass. Strange I thought and replaced it in the pond.

Only to find it on the grass again the next day. Who was coming into our garden to vandalise our pond fountain? I felt – as victims of crime do – soiled. Violated. And rather shocked.

Crime scene evidence of the crime wave

Was it teenagers having some fun? Or a neighbour who had an antipathy to water features? My cat? Or who?

This happened repeatedly over the next weeks. Not every day, but often.

Prime suspect

Then events took a darker and more violent turn. One morning, I went out to take my cat for a walk (she thinks she’s a dog). And stopped dead.

The fountain had entirely disappeared. Not entirely. The solar panel and some of the wires were still in position, but someone had cut them neatly cut into pieces. And the fountain itself had gone.

I discovered it, discarded in a flower bed, minus the circular foam surround that allowed it to float on the surface.

Who could have done this? I examined the cut wires. There was no sign of who had severed them or why.

I accused my cat Sasha. She has a tendency to get jealous when, for example, I sit reading or doing a jigsaw, and will come and sit so as to make the book – or puzzle – impossible to see. She was often in the garden at night and could easily have chewed through the wires.

She had all the three key elements: Motive, means, opportunity…

On questioning, she remained silent.

But then I remembered the circular foam surround. This fitted very tightly and had been almost impossible for me to remove when I cleaned the fountain. I needed to use a screwdriver to lever it off.

Sasha’s clever but has not yet managed to use a screwdriver.

Pond crime wave

I mourned the loss of my fountain, then bought another. For a short time it remained untouched and I thought maybe the vandal or vandals had grown tired of their game, or even moved out of the area.

The trail cam in position on the bird table

Then, one morning a few weeks ago, there it was: the wire cut to pieces again, the fountain tossed onto the grass.

The crime wave was still in full flood. Not only that but in following days, the vandals took to removing water plants, pulling up roots and throwing pots around the place.

I even found a pot in the neighbouring gardens, a hundred metres away. A heavy one, far too heavy for a cat.

Desperate times demanded desperate measures.

Channelling my best Poirot, I contacted a research group who’ve been tracking local wild-life. They kindly lent me a neat piece of equipment called a trail-cam, a small camouflaged camera which sits inactive, until triggered by movement. By day it takes standard colour pictures, by night infra-red.

I didn’t have any more fountains but I replaced the potted plants. With great care I placed the trail-cam in position on a bird feeding table and pointed it at the pond.

Then, with great trepidation, I left it for the night. I didn’t expect immediate results. It was possible that the criminals would see the camera and steer clear. They might even vandalise the camera.

But no.

Next morning dawned. I looked out of the window. Pots were strewn over the lawn.

The camera was brought in and the memory card examined. Voilà! as we detectives say.

There, skulking in the undergrowth around the pond was…

The evidence at last - the criminal
The criminal in action, with a pot in his mouth

…a young fox.

My cat’s innocence had been vindicated along with that of the local children.

The trail-cam emerged victorious.

All I now have to do is work out how to make the pots and fountain fox-proof.

Any ideas will be gratefully received.