Mum ‘sickened’ at Sunderland pond theft that included prized koi carp

Fish in the pond in Robert Smithson's garden in Southwick. Mr Smithson was the victim of fish thieves Mark Swinhoe and Dale Welsh.
Fish in the pond in Robert Smithson's garden in Southwick. Mr Smithson was the victim of fish thieves Mark Swinhoe and Dale Welsh.
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A mum has spoken of her shock after she saw CCTV footage of Swinhoe and Welsh spending hours systematically removing fish from her family’s ponds while she slept.

Gemma Riley, 36, was “sickened” to discover the ponds had been plundered. Details from the court case here.

Fish in the pond in Robert Smithson's garden in Southwick. Mr Smithson was the victim of fish thieves Mark Swinhoe and Dale Welsh.

Fish in the pond in Robert Smithson's garden in Southwick. Mr Smithson was the victim of fish thieves Mark Swinhoe and Dale Welsh.

“My 11-year-old daughter Meg is in the back bedroom by the pond and, knowing that they had been there for two hours and we haven’t heard anything, that has caused her to feel very vulnerable,” she said.

But associate teacher Gemma, who lives with husband Neil, 37, and 14-year-old son Jack, said the worst thing was having to tell her parents, who live next door, about the theft of their prized koi carp.

Her dad Andrew McNaught, 64, an education welfare officer and mum Gwen, 61, a head of year, had been away at the time.

“It’s sickening really,” she said. “Especially for my parents.

“We went down and discovered what had happened and I had to tell my mam whilst on holiday.

“My mam had that fish from being very small. It was 20 years old and over two foot.

“We never got that one back. They just don’t think of the impact they can have.

“We are a very close family, my nieces and my nephew absolutely loved the fish and they are really missing that. But it’s worse for my mam.

“We would always go out just to sit next to the pond. It used to be a lovely place to sit. It was always bustling, then there was just nothing left.”

Victim Robert Smithson’s fish were taken from the back garden of his end-terraced home in Southwick.

“I had them for well over 30 years,” he said.

“They were my mother’s before that.

“She used to love sitting out here in the garden watching them, but she’s gone now and that makes it even worse.”