PATROLS in Colchester’s award-winning Castle Park have been stepped up - after reports of a man apparently taking coins from a wish pond.

The fisherman appears to use an extendable pole with a magnet on the end to pick up coins from the popular Imola pond in upper Castle Park.

His actions have been reported to Colchester Council.

The behaviour came to light after an eagle-eyed resident seemingly caught him in the act on Sunday morning.

At this stage, there is no suggestion the man’s behaviour amounts to a crime, however, the money is usually distributed to the volunteer group the Friends of Castle Park which helps to take care of the award-winning park.

Council bosses are asking anyone who has witnessed the opportunist actions to come forward.

A spokesman for the authority said: “We are dismayed to hear of reports of coins being removed from Imola pond without authorisation and have instructed our park rangers to step up patrols to deter further wrongdoing.

“We would also encourage anyone who witnesses coins being removed from the pond to report the incident to park staff as soon as possible.

“Visitors who throw coins into the pond will be pleased to know they are regularly collected and offered to the Friends of Castle Park.

“It would be sad to think this arrangement could not continue because of the misbehaviour of one or two opportunistic individuals.”

The community-minded resident initially reported his findings to Castle ward councillor Darius Laws, who has also alerted Essex Police.

The Conservative councillor said: “Castle Park remains one of, if not the, greatest park on the planet which is testament to our park’s team and volunteers but the fish pond is not free cash machine.

“Hopefully increased vigilance in the area by our staff and the public will prevent such poor behaviour.

“If anyone sees anything suspicious please inform one of the park rangers.”

The resident who took the camera footage has also alleged Sunday is not the first time the man has been spotted.

In fact, the Gazette has seen complaints which were made to the council as far back as August last year.

At that stage council officers had voiced concerns over a group of people who appeared to loiter in the park early in the morning, seemingly intent on taking money from the pond.

The resident said: “This guy seems to make a habit of taking the money from the pond and he has a special tool to assist him.

“The images on the CCTV make it abundantly clear what he is up to.

“I have seen him in action before but this is the first time he has been captured on CCTV.

“This is not the first time I have raised only to be told that such action was not deemed to be stealing and that security would monitor.”