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William Daniel Caswell (64) appeared in the Dunedin District Court yesterday after pleading guilty to two charges of burglary and one of unlawfully being in an enclosed yard.
While out delivering leaflets, Caswell passed the St Kilda home of his victim and admired her garden.
Late on May 1, he returned.
As the victim sat in her home, Caswell entered the property through a gate, picked up a decorative paver and fled.
The defendant - whose occupation is listed on court documents as ''gardener'' - was caught on CCTV, which the woman passed on to police.
Eight months later, Caswell was back.
The victim was away with family at the time and the defendant browsed the garden area, selected a ''red flowering petunia'' and took it home.
When police executed a search warrant at Caswell's home - a 10-minute walk from the victim's house - they found the stolen items.
The defendant admitted he had seen the items, liked them and wanted to add them to his own garden collection.
Despite his brush with police, Caswell was wandering at night again on March 12, when he walked into the enclosed yard of a Begg St home.
He spent five minutes at the address, the court heard, smoked a cigarette, and was arrested at the scene.
Caswell claimed he had been visiting someone at the property.
Judge Dominic Flatley said the burglary charges, carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment, were serious but the offending was low-level.
He said Caswell had some ''personal issues'', which he did not want to outline in open court.
Defence counsel Brendan Stephenson said his client was seeing a budgeting adviser and wanted to confront his problems.
The judge imposed 150 hours' community work.