Brittney McLaren, who is six months pregnant, was planning to go for her ultrasound appointment Monday morning, but found herself defending one of her cannabis plants from a man with a machete who was attempting to steal it. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Brittney McLaren, who is six months pregnant, was planning to go for her ultrasound appointment Monday morning, but found herself defending one of her cannabis plants from a man with a machete who was attempting to steal it. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Would-be cannabis plant thief swings machete at pregnant woman in Nanaimo

Victim unhurt after Albert Street incident, police hope public can help track down suspect

Nanaimo RCMP are on the lookout for a man who struck a pregnant woman in the head with a machete while trying to rob her of a cannabis plant.

Brittney McLaren, who lives on Albert Street, was in her backyard at about 9:30 a.m. Monday when a man reached through the fence with a machete and tried to cut off a piece of one of her plants.

“I was outside and we have these four little pot plants in planters,” McLaren said. “I was outside trimming my plants and this guy snuck up on one side of my fence that isn’t too well built, grabbed a plant and started hacking away at it with a machete.”

McLaren’s first instinct was to grab the planter and pull it out of harm’s way.

“I went and grabbed the bottom of the planter to try and pull it away from him and I could feel the machete hitting the top of my head a few times,” she said.

McLaren said she was struck maybe four times by her assailant who was wearing a mask and sunglasses. Fortunately McLaren was wearing a baseball cap and the would-be thief was unable to get a good swing at her.

Her assailant managed to hack off part of the plant, but failed to obtain the clipping, so he yelled a profanity at McLaren and then made his escape along the nearby train tracks on his bicycle.

McLaren yelled for her husband and then ran across Albert Street to the Superette Foods grocery store where staff called Nanaimo RCMP. Police responded with several vehicles and patrolled the area, but were unable to find the suspect.

McLaren, who said she is originally “from a farm in Saskatchewan where we don’t see this” and moved to Nanaimo last fall, wasn’t injured, but was rattled by the experience.

“It really sucked for me because I was supposed to be going for my ultrasound to find out the gender of my baby because I’m six months pregnant,” she said. “I can’t wait to tell my kid this story.”

She said she’d never seen the man with the machete in the area before, but did manage to get a photo of him. She also heard from a neighbour that a man had been seen swinging a machete at some bushes about 30 minutes earlier in a garden on Robson Street.

“This really isn’t such a bad neighbourhood and this is the first problem we’ve had since we’ve been here,” McLaren said.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said the complaint was filed by investigators as an assault with a weapon and that McLaren was offered assistance of RCMP Victim Services, which she declined.

The suspect is described as Caucasian, about 40 years old with a scruffy beard. He was wearing a black jacket with red sleeves, black pants and running shoes.

“Somebody was obviously trying to steal something in her property, which was very disturbing for her,” O’Brien said. “We did active patrols. We took it very seriously, regardless of the nature of the call, and we’re hoping the public can assist.”

Anyone with information about the incident or the suspect is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345 and quote file No. 2020-36595.

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