How my Google Nest camera helped catch a thief pinching my old avocado sink

A Google Nest Camera on a red brick house with fields in the background
My Google Nest camera has been excellent at catching thieves during my renovation (Image credit: Future / Amy Willis)

It turns out leaving your old avocado bathroom suite in your front garden while renovating is a terrible idea — and after making this mistake, it's not one I'll repeat.

When I purchased my house, it came with a delightful Harlequin avocado bathroom with heavy metal bathtub, pedestal sink and loo. For the uninitiated, this is like your standard shade of avocado but with an added dark avocado vignette on the edges for that extra 1970s pizzazz. Apparently, the design is rather rare but nonetheless it needed to go, along with the rather horrifyingly absorbent faux velvet carpet tiles.

In the spirit of trying to not be needlessly wasteful and not just throwing away a decent quality suite, I thought I'd have a dabble at selling it online. In the meantime I plonked the bathtub, loo and sink in my front garden, hiding the more-valuable large copper water tank and piping around the back, away from prying eyes. If the trio failed to sell for the £50 price tag I ambitiously put on it, I'd then reluctently take it down to the tip.

I had a visitor while out doing errands

Little did I realise that placing the avocado bathtub, sink and loo in the front garden with slight visibility from the road (my newly-planted yew trees hadn't grown up high enough to block the view), would attract an unwanted visitor.

Opportunistic thieves are on the lookout for exactly this — evidence that someone is renovating a house. That's because there is likely to be metalwork being ripped out that they can take and sell for scrap. Not to mention the possibility of tools to sell, generators and other easy to take items.

But, unfortunately for the thief, I had a little trick of my own up my sleeve in the form of my two trusty Google Nest cameras, which are available to buy on Amazon as a two-pack or as a single camera.

Nest camera pinged me a 'person seen' alert

Admittedly, when I heard my phone ping with an alert, I didn't review the footage straight away. If I had, I might've been able to call the police sooner — and stop the thief stealing the items.

When I did look over the footage, around 30 minutes after he had left, I spotted a large white van with a distinctive roof ladder on the top, drive past my property before turning around and parking up outside my home. Out popped a guy in his twenties in a hi-vis short-sleeved top. My first Google Nest camera showed him knock on the door a few times before shouting "hello" through the letterbox to check if anybody was in. He then looked through the window and walked around to the back of the house. 

Around the back of the house, my second Google Nest camera picked him up again. Unfortunately for me, this was where I had hidden my far more valuable copper that I intended to trade in myself for its scrap metal value. The thief spotted this, gave his nether regions a good scratch before starting work loading up all my copper into his van. I watched the cheeky thief then come back and grab my avocado sink. The metal tap on it can only have been worth a couple of quid, it was baffling. 

Anyway, this delightful little display was enough to get some good traction when I uploaded the camera clip of the thief onto my local Facebook group. 

How the police finally caught up with them

It turned out that lots of people were hunting for these thieves and my neighbour had also captured Google Nest camera footage of a second guy in the same van (obviously they tag-teamed) hopping out and stealing his little girl's bantam eggs along with the money box where people paid to buy them.

These thieves had essentially spent the last week driving around taking whatever they could with numerous people flagging that they'd seen the van — and luckily for us the avocado sink and egg snatcher hadn't yet finished their spree in the area.

Soon, we had sightings being phoned in daily and the neighbourhood watch team phoned these into a police connection, eventually leading to the police tracking down the van and arresting the culprits.

They had a load of chainsaws in the back of the van but my avocado sink and copper were nowhere to be seen. I never did get them back but the thief, who was from London, eventually pleaded guilty and was fined. A triumph for my Google Nest camera and the local neighbourhood watch team and a lesson learned in terms of making sure your home doesn't look like it is being renovated when doing work on it.

The Google Nest camera is fairly easy to install

The Google Nest cameras can be easily fixed to exterior walls as long as you have the tools, which I did. It required a cable-sized hole to be drilled through the exterior brickwork for the power cable to feed through, as well as screwing a magnetic backplate to the wall for the camera to sit on. You can then easily adjust the angle of the camera to make sure it captures what you want. The magnetic backplate is strong too, only once has the camera been blown off the backplate in the three years and many storms I've had since it has been installed.

You then have to spend a few hours going through the steps to link the camera to your Wi-Fi and sync it to your devices. Once you have the first one installed, it does get easier to add them on to your account. The one thing I will say is a nuisance about the Google Nest camera, and I assume similar Wi-Fi-connected domestic cameras, is having to sign up for the monthly subscription. You don't have to do this but the reality is that the functionality of the camera, which is deliberately designed this way, is seriously impaired if you don't. You can't view much history without paying the subscription, and you can't get a constant live feed anymore (you could with earlier models).

Google Nest does however seem to have recently upgrade their system so that you can now add as many cameras as you like to your subscription without having to upgrade the amount you pay, aside from the purchase price of the camera.

It's also worth pointing out that newer models of the Google Nest camera are advertised as being able to run off a battery but this is really only designed so it doesn't cut out when there is a power cut rather than being 'battery powered' as such, however this is a handier-than-you-might-expect feature.

Google Nest Cam (Outdoor / Indoor, Battery) Security Camera, 2-Pack | £319.99

Google Nest Cam (Outdoor / Indoor, Battery) Security Camera, 2-Pack | £319.99

The Nest Cam home security camera will send you an alert when it spots movement, a person, an animal or a vehicle.

Google G3AL9 Nest Cam (Outdoor / Indoor, Battery) Security Camera | £179.99

Google G3AL9 Nest Cam (Outdoor / Indoor, Battery) Security Camera | £179.99

The Nest Cam security camera is weather-resistant and wireless, so it’s designed to go almost anywhere, from the living room to the back garden

Amy Willis

Amy spent over a decade in London editing and writing for The Daily Telegraph, MailOnline, and before moving to East Anglia where she began renovating a period property in rural Suffolk. During this time she also did some TV work at ITV Anglia and CBS as well as freelancing for Yahoo, AOL, ESPN and The Mirror. When the pandemic hit she switched to full-time building work on her renovation and spent nearly two years focusing solely on that. She's taken a hands-on DIY approach to the project, knocking down walls, restoring oak beams and laying slabs with the help of family members to save costs. She has largely focused on using natural materials, such as limestone, oak and sisal carpet, to put character back into the property that was largely removed during the eighties. The project has extended into the garden too, with the cottage's exterior completely re-landscaped with a digger and a new driveway added. She has dealt with de-listing a property as well as handling land disputes and conveyancing administration.