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Inside The World's Biggest Garlic Robbery

Imagine waking up one morning to find your entire livelihood uprooted—literally. This was the reality for garlic farmer Leah McLeod, whose peaceful farm in Cockatoo, 70 kilometers east of Melbourne, became the site of a bizarre and audacious heist back in 2018. Leah's dogs had barked during the night, but thinking it was nothing out of the ordinary, she went back to sleep. The next day, she was stunned to discover that her entire garlic crop had vanished.

harvested garlic

This was no small theft. Between 300 and 400 kilograms of organic Australian and Italian garlic, valued at a whopping $10,000 to $15,000, had been harvested and stolen right under her nose. The perpetrators executed the theft with remarkable precision, leaving neither Leah nor the local authorities any clues as to who might be behind this unusual crime.

"The previous evening [the owner] heard her dogs barking and looked out and didn't see anything,” recounted Senior Sergeant Carolyn Hill, as reported by the ABC. "When she went to go through her property the next day she noticed the garlic crop had been harvested overnight. It probably took a few hours to harvest it and could have been one or two people who have actually committed the crime."

The sheer volume of garlic stolen and the stealth involved in the heist raised eyebrows. Senior Sergeant Hill acknowledged that such a large-scale garlic theft was unprecedented in the area. Local police had no reports of similar crimes and were reaching out to the public for assistance. They urged anyone encountering suspiciously large quantities of garlic for sale to come forward.

"The likely avenues that they might try to on-sell it will be through farmers markets, greengrocers, or wholesalers,” Senior Sergeant Hill speculated. "The other thing is the garlic could be replanted… so it could be to start a whole new crop."

The heist struck a blow to the tight-knit garlic-growing community, who quickly rallied around Leah. The loss of her crop was a severe blow, but her fellow farmers didn't let her face it alone. Several producers offered to donate seed stock to help her replant and eventually rebuild her supply.

Kirsten Jones, a fellow garlic grower, expressed her disbelief and concern. “I’d never heard of anyone stealing a crop, particularly a garlic crop,” she said. She surmised that the thieves had a deeper understanding of garlic farming than most. "You have to know to harvest your garlic at exactly the right time, it can be even a matter of days, and it sounds like the thieves actually knew when to harvest the garlic. That really surprises and dismays me. I think they must have been going past the crop and checking it out, perhaps driving past daily."

With the garlic-growing season being so precise, it was clear the thieves had meticulously planned their heist. The incident left the community on edge and vigilant. The local police emphasized that public cooperation was crucial for solving the case. Without it, tracking down the culprits would be nearly impossible.

The garlic thieves remain at large, their identities and motives shrouded in mystery. But one thing is clear: in the quiet town of Cockatoo, the scent of garlic now carries with it a whiff of intrigue and unanswered questions.

This strange and unsettling crime highlights not just the value of agricultural produce, but the vulnerabilities faced by small-scale farmers. Leah's story is a poignant reminder of the dedication and passion required to cultivate such crops, and the devastating impact when such hard work is callously taken away.


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