Couple 'beyond gutted' van stolen from remote South Island valley


November 22, 2020

A couple travelling New Zealand were “gutted” to return from a tramp in the remote Hopkins Valley, near Lake Ōhau, to find their van and worldly possessions stolen and nothing but their bicycles left behind.

Australian Jesse Moss and his Kiwi girlfriend Ellen Platsoot, parked their red Toyota Hiace at the end of Lake Ōhau Rd on Wednesday morning and set off on the overnight tramp to the Huxley Hut. They returned at 3pm on Thursday to find the van had been stolen.

Moss said they were happy to find whoever took the van had left their bicycles behind for them, enabling them to make their way to a nearby farm to report the theft and get help. A ute, which had been reported stolen from Auckland, was parked where the van had been, he said.

Moss said he was “beyond gutted” the van and all of his possessions had been stolen.

“My whole life was in that van ... wallet, passport, clothes, laptop.”

He said the van, with a registration of ZD4374, was taken sometime between 10.45am Wednesday and 3pm Thursday. There is only one road in and out of the area and Moss is hoping someone will have seen the van.

A friend from Wanaka had travelled to collect them and that is where they are staying in the hope of still recovering the van and their personal possessions.

Moss said he is concerned if they don’t find the van he may have to return to Australia.

Jesse Moss and Ellen Platsoot in the Toyota Hiace which was stolen from the end of Lake Ōhau Rd.
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Jesse Moss and Ellen Platsoot in the Toyota Hiace which was stolen from the end of Lake Ōhau Rd.

Moss bought the van in Auckland when he arrived in New Zealand about 13 months ago.

He met Platsoot 10 months ago while he was working at Cardrona skifield and they had been planning the trip around the country for quite a while.

They finished their jobs at the end of winter and left Wanaka mid-October and took in the Catlins, Fiordland, Aoraki/Mt Cook and Ōhau.

Jesse Moss in happier times in the Toyota Hiace van that has been stolen.
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Jesse Moss in happier times in the Toyota Hiace van that has been stolen.

He said he had travelled throughout the world for seven years, including through South America and Eastern Europe, and had never had anything stolen.

Despite the theft, he said it did not change his positive opinion of Kiwis or the country.

Moss said there had been a number of unconfirmed sightings of the van since he had reported it stolen. He urged anyone who has any information on the van, or its whereabouts, to please report it.