The statue depicted Ernest Rutherford, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, when he was a young boy.
A cyclist waited until the early hours of Friday before stealing a statue of Ernest Rutherford, tying a rope around the statue and swinging it back and forth for half an hour until it breaks.
The statue of Lord Rutherford as a child is part of a $400,000 monument to his birthplace and has left the community of Brightwater disappointed and in a state of disbelief, police say.
Captured by CCTV, the suspect is believed to be a man who approached the statue from Lord Rutherford Road North at 1.50am, exiting around 2.40am, on the same road heading north.
“It was certainly a deliberate and targeted act, there is no doubt about it. They were very direct, they went straight out there and did their job very quickly,” said Wakefield agent Jamie White.
* Video shows $40,000 bronze sculpture stolen from Auckland’s Pah Homestead
* Ernest Rutherford: From Humble Beginnings to New Zealand’s Greatest Scientist
* ‘Greatest New Zealander’ celebrated with ‘hands-on’ science in replica Rutherford Cottage
White said the attacker tied a rope around the statue and rocked it back and forth for about 30 minutes until it broke.
They then managed to secure the statue on their bicycle and set off again.
“It’s sickening to see something of such cultural significance taken like this,” White said.
His post about the theft on social media prompted an “outpouring of disappointment and disbelief”.
“It’s certainly upset the community for something of such significance. [to be stolen]not just locally, but nationally – he is one of our most famous icons.
It is believed that the perpetrator could be a local given his means of transport.
Ernest Rutherford is known as the father of nuclear physics.
World famous for winning the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his work explaining radioactivity and for “splitting the atom” in 1917, Lord Rutherford was considered at the time of his death to be one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.
The statue of Ernest Rutherford as a boy was created by Monegasque sculptor Paul Walshe.
The $400,000 memorial marking Rutherford’s birthplace features a mound surrounded by terraces with plants and trees from Canada, England and New Zealand representing the places where Lord Rutherford worked.
It was inaugurated by the Governor General at the time, Dame Catherine Tizard, on December 6, 1991.
Police would like to hear from anyone who may have seen suspicious activity or have information on the whereabouts of the statue.
Any information can be sent to Constable White at [email protected] or reported by calling 105 or Crimestoppers quoting case number 220806/1718 anonymously.