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Sign man walks free

Judge discharges retired JP without conviction on theft charge


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A Greytown man has walked free from court after police charged him with stealing, and attempting to steal, real estate signs in the town.

After a two-day trial involving six witnesses at Masterton District Court, two charges of attempted theft and one charge of theft were dismissed or withdrawn against retired justice of the peace, Allan George Wasmuth, who represented himself.

Only one charge remained — the theft of an East St “sold” property sign — but Judge Ian Mill discharged Wasmuth without conviction, despite finding the charge proven.

The sign had been found in Wasmuth’s garage during a police search.

In his decision, the judge said Wasmuth was a “community minded person”, who had “a lot of use for the material of which the signs were made”.

While giving evidence yesterday, Wasmuth said he had considerable experience with erecting and dismantling signs, which he recycled by using them for various reasons.

“I make signs for walking tracks, mudguards on bikes, liners on shelve, for repairing doors on camper vans.

“It’s a very useful material and I think a lot of other people would think so too.”

Judge Mill said the degree of Wasmuth’s alleged criminal offending was “minor to say the least”.

“I accept that he is a community minded person, who would’ve put the signs to good use.”

Last week, Senior Constable Lloyd McKay gave evidence detailing how on March 30 he hid in a bush, with his police dog, and watched from across the road as Wasmuth allegedly removed a Harcourts real estate sign stapled to the fence of a Main St property.

There had been numerous reports to police by Greytown real estate agents saying their signs, but only ones featuring the sold sticker, were being stolen or vandalised, the judge said.

Wasmuth said he was “a very active person”, who “still climbs big mountains” and goes on regular bike rides, sometimes at night, to keep his fitness level up.

“On the day I was arrested . . . at about 8pm I had a meal. I was physically restless since I’d done nothing physical all day so at about 9pm decided to go out for a bike ride.

“I set off with a helmet, a high-vis vest and clip-on cycle shoes.

“I was travelling down Main St in a northerly direction when my bike started to behave oddly.”

He said he crossed the street for better light to inspect his tyre, leaning his bike against the fence.

“My accidental dislodgment of the sign happened so quickly that I’m still not exactly sure how it actually happened.”

Wasmuth said it could have been his wheel, pedal, or “some other part” of his bike.

Police prosecutor Anton Heyns said Senior Constable McKay saw Wasmuth “take hold of the sign and rip it off the fence”.

Wasmuth said he went around Greytown the following day and counted 22 real estate signs, most of which were attached with screws and bolts, some with the addition of washers.

He said the sign in question was attached to the fence with what were likely 10millimetre-length staples.

Having erected political party signs in the past, Wasmuth said staples were unsuitable for securing such signs.

He said the light that night had been inadequate and McKay had been watching him from “over 22 metres away”.

The judge said that although he did not doubt McKay’s evidence, he would be dismissing the charge of attempted theft as the evidence did not prove an intention to steal the sign.

Last week the court heard how on March 29, Property Brokers Greytown agent Vicki Eckford and Senior Constable Peter Sykes noticed real estate signs, with the “sold” sticker, had disappeared from the power pole they had been secured to with wire, outside an East St property.

Yesterday, Wasmuth said that on the night in question, while on his “usual cycle” around town, he had seen the signs, which “seemed to be abandoned on the road reserve”.

One was leaning against the power pole, the other was face down on the road.

Wasmuth said they were not attached to the pole, and their location breached South Wairarapa District Council rules.

“I assumed those signs had been abandoned.

“I did enquire with a young Indian lady from a nearby house if she knew where they came from and who owned them.”

Wasmuth said the signs would have been “perfect” for marking out a public walking track he was maintaining.

“I thought I was doing the community a service by picking them up and recycling them.”

The following night, police discovered the signs in Wasmuth’s possession.

“I had them in my garage and made no attempt to hide or disguise them.”

Judge Mill discharged Wasmuth without conviction on the charge of property theft on March 29.


  1. So how long can a Sold real estate sign stay up for and where does the law stand on responsibility for removal? We all know the Agent would leave it there in perpetuum as advertising if permitted and not prompted to remove.

  2. Just goes to show, The standards are different for some people in our society. I am sure if it were young men with brown skins, the outcome would of been different.

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