Thieves stole a gardener's bike, wallet and keys as he was delivering fresh vegetables to his elderly neighbours.

Michael Fernandes

Michael Fernandes spends most of his days at his allotment in Lenthall Road, Rose Hill, Oxford, cultivating all sorts of produce, including garlic, onions and potatoes.

And such is the friendship between gardeners that any surplus produce is shared among them and sometimes distributed to pensioners living on the estate.

But at about 6.15pm on August 4, Mr Fernandes was delivering produce to an elderly couple when thieves stole his bicycle.

They also took his wallet, which contained £100 in cash, allotment keys and important paperwork.

The incident happened only a month after his house was raided by burglars, who still have not been caught.

Mr Fernandes, 76, who is secretary of the Lenthall Road Allotments, said: "I was delivering vegetables at the time my bike was stolen. Because it was a nice day they were in the back garden and I had only left it outside for a few minutes.

"In the middle of June my house was burgled and a cash box containing £100 of allotment money stolen - it's a very dangerous area, this estate."

Rose Hill city councillor Bill Buckingham suspects the theft could be the result of summer holiday mischief.

He said: "Michael looks after that allotment and tends it as if it was his own child. He's there almost every day - it's his life - and he would give anyone odd bits of vegetables if he didn't need them himself.

"He's one of the most harmless people you would wish to meet and if it was not for him the allotment would grind to a halt.

"This sort of thing makes me sick. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was children who had done this -- and I hope their parents make them return what was stolen."

Oxford police spokesman Lucy Ferguson said: "This is a particularly sad crime as the gentleman in question was doing a good deed for his elderly neighbours."