Cam nabs lowlife staff

A retirement village set up an elaborate hidden-camera sting to catch one of its workers, after residents complained that they had lost thousands of dollars.

The undercover trap caught out care worker Denise Neal, 51, who worked at The Poynton in Takapuna between 2012 and 2014 in a role of “utmost trust”, on call for elderly residents during the night.

Court documents show retirement village bosses became suspicious when nearly $4000 went missing over 15 months from people who lived in the spacious, upmarket apartments. But there was no evidence as to the identity of the culprit.

At the end of July last year, managers turned to Scope Investigations, which set up several hidden cameras in the flats of absent residents.

In one room they even left two $10 bills under a fruit bowl to lure the thief.

Over a week, the footage caught Neal entering three of the apartments – using her master key – and snooping around, opening bags and checking diaries.

She often used a torch or the light from her cellphone so as not to cause alarm. The covert cameras even filmed her putting on blue plastic gloves while she scoured the rooms.

And she did not miss the $20 bait, which she was shown scooping up and putting in her pocket.

People will write off one occurrence of money going missing, perhaps two, but when it keeps happening, the thief is on a a slippery downward slope. ?

Neal subsequently admitted four charges of burglary and was sentenced in North Shore District Court to 10 months’ home detention.

Judge Pippa Sinclair also ordered her to repay the resident her $175 as well as $600 for emotional harm, but she declined reparation for Metlifecare, which owns The Poynton.

The company spent $6800 on the CCTV sting to catch the defendant but the judge ruled against Neal picking up the tab.

Metlifecare chief executive Alan Edwards described the incident as “extremely disappointing”.

“The safety and trust of our residents is held in the highest regard and we will always endeavour to take appropriate measures to ensure they feel safe in our villages,” he said.

Judge Sinclair said the offending appeared to have been driven by a gambling habit but Neal had since expressed “remorse and extreme guilt”.

There was still a stern message for the Papakura resident.

“By breaking into people’s homes and going through and taking people’s possessions, you seriously violate people’s rights to feel safe and secure in their own home,” Judge Sinclair said.

“The most aggravating feature relating to your offending was the breach of trust.”

You have to wonder what you have to to get justice these days. ?10 months at home, repay the $165 and $600 “emotional harm”? ? The emotional harm that caused every member of staff to be looked at as a thief, every resident as a possible demented liar? ?That’s $600?

Of course she was remorseful. ?They always are after the fact. ? If I was a judge I’d say “being remorseful is a good start, it will assist you when you’re up for parole.”


– Rob Kidd, A newspaper