New Taipei City (新北市) prosecutors on Thursday decided not to indict a man who allegedly stole a gas tank in a desperate effort to allow his ill wife to take a hot bath.
Chao Fa-ho (趙發和), 58, was referred to prosecutors on charges of theft after he made off with a 20kg liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tank from a food stall in New Taipei City’s Sansia District (三峽) on Oct. 29.
According to prosecutors, Chao lives in a small apartment in Yingge District (鶯歌) and has been the family’s sole breadwinner since his wife was diagnosed with epilepsy a few years ago.
Falling on hard times due to his age and lack of employable skills, Chao was forced to scrape a living by scavenging for recyclable materials on the street, the prosecutors said.
The electric water heater in his home broke down last year, forcing Chao and his wife to take cold showers.
Although they had sought to boil water for washing on a gas stove, the recent surge in gas prices put a stop to the practice.
“When I drove pass the food stall at midnight on Oct. 29, I noticed there were several gas tanks placed behind it,” the prosecutors quoted Chao as saying.
“At that moment, I thought about my wife, and how nice it would be if we could just take a hot bath … so I took a gas tank and put it on my truck,” Chao was quoted as saying.
The next afternoon, Chao’s wife received a telephone call from the police saying that her husband’s truck was allegedly involved in a “gas tank heist.”
Chao denied everything at first, but he soon confessed to his wife.
“Although it would be nice to take hot showers, nothing can justify stealing,” the prosecutors quoted Chao’s wife as telling him.
Chao returned the gas tank to the food stall the next day with a note apologizing for his wrongdoing.
However, as stealing is an indictable offense, the police had to refer Chao to the prosecutors’ office, who decided not to indict him after taking into account the sympathetic motives for his transgression.
News reports on case have triggered a wave of donations.
Chen Sheng-chih (陳聖智), an assistant professor at National Chengchi University’s Digital Contents and Technologies Program, said he planned to donate NT$10,000 to Chao’s family to help them buy gas tanks to stay warm this winter.
Yingge’s Jhonghu Borough (中湖) Warden Yu Chao-pin (游昭斌) purchased a gas tank and delivered it to the family on Friday to help them ride out this week’s cold front.
The gas supplier from which Yu bought the tank also offered to provide a long-term gas supply to Chao’s family for free, while a catering company volunteered to offer free meals to them on weekdays.
New Taipei City councilors Ou Ching-shih (歐金獅) and Wu Chi-ming (吳琪銘) also offered to donate rice to the family.
Additional Reporting by Wu Jen-chieh and Chiu