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(or the case of the missing bra)




It's the summer of 2010; the warm nights are heavy with the scent of star jasmine; sleeping bodies glisten with perspiration; draped, as modestly requires, under a thin white sheet.  A light breeze provides intermittent comfort as it wafts fitfully through the open front door. 

Yet we lie unperturbed.   To enter the premises a nocturnal visitor bent on larceny, or perhaps an opportunistic dalliance, must wend their way past our parked cars and evade a motion detecting flood-light on the veranda before confronting locked, barred doors securing the front and rear entrances to the house.

Yet things are going missing. Not watches or wallets; laptops or phones; but clothes:  "Did you put both my socks in the wash?"  "Where's my black and white striped shirt?" "I seem to be missing several pairs of underpants!"

Most distressing are the bras.  As any woman, and any man who has given a bra as a present, knows these can cost several hundred dollars.  But worse, according to Wendy, a good bra is hard to find.

"No! It isn’t in the wash."  "It has not fallen behind the sofa.  I’ve looked a dozen times - no it’s not at the back of the drawer!"  "No, I did not leave it somewhere (very funny!)."

Yet one by one Wendy's bras are disappearing.  Along with my underpants and socks. Knickers disappear too.  Someone is definitely stealing our underwear!

So like good 'Mid Summer' detectives we draw up a list of suspects, ordering them by possible motive.

At the top of our initial list are our daughters who live in Sydney, both of whom access to the house.  They borrow clothes or shoes from time to time.  But not underwear.  And socks are 'fair game' but why would they take my shirt or underpants.  Both deny any knowledge; and the disappearances continue even when they have cast-iron alibis (like not being in the city, the State or the Country).

Possibly it's our cleaners.  But this seems unlikely.  They've proven to be entirely trustworthy with cash and other valuables left lying about.  And they are Chinese women of diminutive décolletage who have no obvious use for the missing bras.  Nevertheless to eliminate the possibility we do a stock-take before and after cleaning. They’re in the clear.

A fresh line of enquiry is needed.  We focus on where the missing bras might be taken from.




They weren't hung up to dry outside; and the house itself appears to be secure as no other portable valuables are missing.  But the laundry is not secure on warm nights when the outer sliding door to the garden is left open to facilitate a through-breeze. They must be being stolen from the laundry basket.  Someone stealing underwear from our laundry to satisfy a fetish. 

The garden door looks like someone has tried to force it; more evidence that we are being robbed by some agile fence-hopper.

This makes sense of my disappearing socks too. Based on a childhood experience when my parent's house was robbed I speculate that these are being used as gloves to avoid leaving finger-prints.

Wendy calls the police.  We suspect that there is a 'snowdropper' in the neighbourhood.  A helpful cop offers to come around to examine Wendy’s underwear at once.  But, she explains: she's not at home – she's calling from work. He'll have to come around this evening when her partner is there.  His enthusiasm for solving petty crime promptly evaporates.



 missing brassiere



I muse that it's interesting that the slightly humorous term ‘snowdropper’ seems to be an Australian invention; no other country seems to have an equivalent term.  Is Australia the only place on the planet where this petty-criminal fetish is sufficiently commonplace to have a name; or are Australians more amused or more interested than most other nationalities by fetishes of this sort?

So I go ‘on line’ to see if the Web can shed any light on the kind of person who might be a ‘snowdropper’ - staging nocturnal panty-raids on our laundry. 

All the pubescent boys in the neighbourhood immediately come under suspicion; to these must be added older men who might be closet transvestites, particularly those fit enough to leap a fence, perhaps as a diversion from running up and down the hill to Balmoral beach.   

Our DVD collection includes Woody Allen’s ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex’.  We re-watch it for more information and learn about 'animal husbandry' into the bargain.

The ever-helpful Web provides an additional lead.  Someone writes that their cat was a snowdropper.  There is indeed a very self-contained Siamese cat that roams the neighbourhood; including our garden.  It doesn't seem to have a bell; even though cats allowed out at night are supposed to wear one against predation on native fauna and other feline hi-jinx.  

Nevertheless the Web reference rings a metaphorical bell.  This cat has made a sort of second home under our house and has used storage boxes there as a scratching post.  It even comes into the house sometimes; walking straight between the bars in either security door, much to Wendy's distress. She's a dog person.

But the cat is not alone in this.  Various other wildlife also come into the house from time to time including the occasional bird; huntsman spider and recently a blue-tongued skink (lizard). It was the smaller of two out there only about thirteen inches long (30cm) but chunky and quite heavy. And when picked up by the neck to be returned to the garden surprisingly strong and wiggly and potentially scratchy and bitey.

So the cat, together with one or more of the several possums in the garden, possibly steeling clothing for its nest, is now added to the suspect list. The lizard is not added; lacking both motive and method.

But could a cat or a possum be dipping into the closed laundry basket then replacing the lid?  We are undecided.  A human snowdropper still seams most likely.

Another year rolls by and during the winter the snowdropper’s activities cease.  Perhaps he's studying for the Higher School Certificate or is taking it easy after a heart attack on 'Heartbreak Hill'.

Then summer comes around and socks and our underpants start to disappear again.  The bras are now under special security; just short of an armed guard.  Losses are more manageable but still annoying.  I put a lock on my socks drawer.

This year it's cooler.  But again there are some hot nights when the solid front door to the veranda is left open and the barred steel door provides security.

One night Wendy falls into bed hot and exhausted, her underwear carelessly strewn on the bedroom floor.  In the morning she unlocks the front security door to find her bra on the front steps. 

The thief has definitely got in through the locked security door; snatched her bra; then abandoned it, perhaps in alarm. Could the floodlight have come on? Suddenly the cat has moved to the top of the suspect list.  The following night my expensive Kalvin Klein underpants, bought in America, are gone. Bummer!

I have an idea: I can hinge an acrylic sheet against the lower part of the security door.  If the cat is indeed the culprit, it might push its way in and then be trapped inside.  But will a cat push past the acrylic?

Thinking this through a bit more: what will I do with a scared, and possibly angry, cat running amok in the house?  I don’t fancy cleaning up after it if it gets really scared. And then what will I do with it?  It's already cost us several hundred dollars but a vet or the RSPCA is hardly likely to put-down someone else’s probably pedigree Siamese moggie, just because I accuse it of snowdropping.  Yet how else could I cure it of its kleptomania?  Electric shock treatment? 

I don't want to deal with it in the old-fashioned way, like 'Little Johnny Flynn' in Ding Dong Dell! Traditional since 1580.

So murderous thoughts are put aside and I elect to simply fix the sheet solidly across the lower panel of the door to prevent cat entry.

A few nights later we hear scratching and there he/she is!  The cat is peering in, confronted by a clear but solid barrier to its entry.  Seeing me naked it takes fright and scampers away (I know!).  So on the following nights we leave all sorts of interesting clothing lying about without any losses.   Mystery solved:  it's 'The Cat' hereafter to be known as John Robie.

So after three years of cat-burgling, and several hundreds of dollars worth of garments lifted, as in Hitchcock's 'To Catch a Thief', John Robie will have to retire; or find another house to raid. 

But some mysteries remain:

  • Why does John Robie, or perhaps Joan Robie, steal clothes and what does he/she do with them?  A cat might think socks are kittens but why take bras?  
    • Why hasn't John Robie's owner made an effort to return the garments? 
    • Has John Robie been outfitting one of the neighbours who has the good fortune to have the matching bra size; or
    • Is John Robie the trained accomplice of a sinister master snowdropper; perhaps with many such feline agents and supply lines across the City, the Country or the World?
    • Are they working on a secret commission for the undergarment industry?
    • Is this a plot for the next Cat Woman movie?

      It's only been a few days. 

    • Is this mystery finally solved; or is there yet another twist in the tail of John Robie?


    2017 Addendum:

    It's 2017.  The acrylic sheet remains in place and although John Robie still leaves footprints on my car and still scratches boxes under the house, our underwear has proven to be secure.  But now there may be another victim.  As we walked back home down Sadlier Walk today there was John Robie scampering away - and there on the pavement was, you guessed it, a girl's bra.  Has the feline snowdropper struck again?




# Bob Piper 2012-02-28 06:38
I think it was actually a possum wishing to enhance its nest high in a tree !!. Not a poor innocent cat.

Check the scratch marks.

Bob Piper.
Private Eye
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# Richard 2012-03-17 13:42
I'm afraid he was caught red handed last night trying to get past the acrylic - definitely not a possum (or a dingo) but a grey, very naughty, puddy tat.
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