A man caught on the roof of a Braddon car wash wearing a wig and mask has been acquitted after a judge said he wasn’t a burglar but was just a “strange man”.
Bernard Hardy, 42, of Turner, was caught with a backpack of tools but told police he was an artist who climbed onto the roof of the car wash building to obtain “a different perspective” on Canberra.
Hardy was arrested in May last year after a car wash employee saw him walking on the roof of the building at midnight, wearing a white dust mask, a wig, gloves and hooded jacket.
He was charged with possessing articles with intent to use them for theft.
But ACT Supreme Court Acting Justice John Nield cleared Hardy of the charge, saying he could not be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the man intended to commit theft.
The judge even ordered the Crown to return Hardy’s tools, including a metal bar and pliers.
The court heard that Hardy’s own barrister, James Lawton, described him as a “strange man”.
Acting Justice Nield said Hardy was in fact a talented artist who had never sold any of his work despite a website claiming “millions of satisfied customers”.
The court heard Hardy was a man who had hitherto unblemished character and held degrees in planning and architecture.
But he was unemployed and lived off Centrelink benefits.
Hardy was well-liked by former colleagues yet was a loner with a penchant for wandering the streets at night.
At his trial, Hardy gave evidence that he was an artist who had been trying to get a different perspective on buildings in Canberra, saying he wore a disguise so that he would not be identified on any cameras.
Acting Justice Nield described Hardy’s evidence as implausible but said that did not mean they were untrue.
He found Hardy not guilty and ordered the Crown to return Hardy’s backpack and his tools.
“I haven’t included the wig, mask and gloves, Mr Lawton,” he told Hardy’s barrister.
“They might be forfeit to the Crown.”
“I’m sure Mr Hardy won’t mind,” was the response.
Hardy pleaded guilty to a related charge of trespass which the judge dismissed without recording a conviction.