Herb garden thefts hit London Fields cancer survivor hard

Hackney residents Andrew McDonald and partner Carol Wrightman are upset that people are stealing her

Hackney residents Andrew McDonald and partner Carol Wrightman are upset that people are stealing herbs from their front garden. - Credit: Archant

An 83-year-old cancer survivor may be forced to give up his extraordinary herb garden after a spate of petty thefts.

When Andrew McDonald, of Richmond Road, London Fields, was battling non-Hodgkin lymphoma last year, he decided to set up the herb garden if he survived after discovering a relationship between “sophisticated” chemotherapy and old fashioned herbs.

Since February, he has nurtured and tended 80 varieties in his garden which he finished three weeks ago, complete with cards detailing the history of the plants and a “sniffing trail” featuring the strongest-smelling herbs.

The garden regularly attracts visitors who take photos and talk to him about the herbs.

However, his labour of love may come to an untimely end after 10 pots of herbs were stolen over the space of two weeks.

Mr McDonald said: “I planted 80 different herbs in the front garden which include relatively common flowers and it’s these ones that have been primarily stolen. Herbs such as thyme, tarragon and lavender have all gone.

“I’ve lost 10 per cent of all the herbs and I only put them out three weeks ago.

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“I’m confident it’s mature and sophisticated adults taking them. Who else would steal kitchen herbs? It’s not the usual suspects. It’s not bored kids.”

Mr McDonald said the thefts took place when he was asleep at night, adding: “On some level, I feel threatened by the fact people have taken them. The fact that people have been in your garden while you’ve been in bed is worrying.

“The cost is not so great, but the disappointment is heartbreaking. It’s a big disappointment as so many people have come up and said how nice the herbs are and because the thieves are too lazy to plant their own.

“I can’t report it to the police as the thefts are too small. However, it will take months to grow again. Some of them won’t be replaced next season.

“I can’t even be sure I will be around next year.

“If the thefts go on, I will have to give up and stop growing them. I’m using good ceramic pots and they’re costing £10 to £15 a time. They’re expensive to replace. In some ways it would be better if they took the herbs and left the pots.”

Mr McDonald said that he was inspired by the potency of herbs, saying: “The basic thing about the herbs is you can treat lots of things, but it’s a slow process.

“If I had understood them earlier, I may not have developed cancer. I have at least seven love potions growing in the garden and one herb that cures baldness!”