Brazen thief steals judge’s laptop

2008-06-11 00:00

A brazen thief entered the high court in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday morning, walked into the Judges’ chambers on the second floor and made off with a computer belonging to acting Judge Trevor Gorven.

The thief — who seemed to know exactly where to go and what he was looking for — was captured on surveillance cameras, but was not observed by security officials in time to be arrested. The theft took place shortly before 11 am.

KwaZulu-Natal’s Deputy Judge President, Judge Phillip Levinsohn, said yesterday he is “completely devastated”, and he appealed to the public to assist in bringing the perpetrator to book. He said if criminals are not caught crime will continue to escalate.

“The thief of today is the robber of tomorrow and the murderer of next week,” the judge told The Witness.

Judge Levinsohn said he and other judges are concerned about security in their chambers and the court building. “I called security this morning and was told that they are taking steps [to improve security]. I believe fingerprint ID will be required to get in and out of chambers and the fire escapes will be shut.”

He said he hopes security will indeed be “beefed up”.

Other staff members in the offices of the director of public prosecutions and judges’ corridors said the theft was not an isolated incident.

The Witness was told that a judge’s cellphone was stolen recently and that money has also disappeared from drawers.

Three laptop computers were taken from the DPP’s offices about six months ago, also by brazen day-time thieves.

The Witness watched footage of Tuesday’s incident. It shows the thief entering the judges’ chambers via a fire escape stairway — the ground-floor entrance of which is not generally accessible to the public.

After walking straight to acting Judge Gorven’s chambers, he knocks, checks the office is empty, then returns to the stairway for a quick look to see that no one is coming. He thereafter swiftly returns to the Judge’s chambers, enters and emerges with the laptop under his right arm.

The video footage shows him leaving the court building with the laptop concealed in a large envelope.

“We are not sure if we have a Trojan horse here,” said Judge Levinsohn, commenting on the thief’s apparent familiarity with the layout of the building and where to find the laptop.

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