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Ute damaged, tools gone, but Sparky safe

Sparky the dog survived a scorching two-day trip to parts of the upper South Island in his owner’s stolen ute, with only a small cut above his eye to show the test.

Sparky was found Monday afternoon in the back seat of the now badly damaged utility vehicle by a West Coast police officer on highway patrol.

Yesterday, the slender black border collie/huntaway cross was back home playing in Lydia Stewart’s Christchurch garden, unaware of the anguish and stress caused by the disappearance.

Miss Stewart, a builder, was upset that her dog was stolen along with her ute, when a stranger jumped into the driver’s seat and drove off on Saturday afternoon.

The vehicle was parked on the Christchurch property of Miss Stewart’s parents, where she was helping trim trees.

“We were right next to it when he jumped,” she said.

Yesterday morning she said Sparky was fine, although she seemed a bit shaken.

“I took her to the vet for a checkup.”

While insured, Miss Stewart’s Nissan Navara work van, which was packed with her work tools, was beaten during the carjacking. Just like his bank accounts.

“I didn’t block all my cards and he took all my money.

“He is still at large and the transactions are all from Christchurch. I have to call the police.”

His construction tools were not in the ute when he was found, although his named hammer was found at the Gas Lewis Pass service station, where it had been used to break into the business on Saturday night .

Prior to this break-in, the ute was captured by CCTV cameras entering Reefton from State Highway 69, crossing the township and heading towards Springs Junction.

Miss Stewart has run her construction business, Maid of Wood, for three years and specializes in kitchen and bathroom renovations.

Staff Sergeant Brent Cook of Greymouth said inquiries were continuing to identify the man and hold him responsible.

The ute would be examined forensically and police were following strong investigative leads, including several sightings of the vehicle during the man’s ride.

– By Helen Murdoch