News24

Stolen phone's selfie trail

2014-02-21 12:42

Rowan Philp, The Witness

Durban - Every week, Joe Knott logs onto his computer to check the latest happy snaps apparently taken by the man who robbed him.

Having allegedly burgled the holiday cottage on the KZN South Coast where Knott was staying on 30 December 2013, the man has taken 38 photos to date on a stolen BlackBerry - including pictures apparently of himself, of a happy bride and bridesmaid preparing for a wedding, of the stolen loot, and also of a child parading with Knott’s sunglasses on his face.

Knott said police had advised him to keep the phone active to help trace the culprit, as, unbeknown to the thief, software on the phone automatically uploads every picture he takes to Knott’s Google Drive account. He can also read draft e-mails composed by the man - and, for two days, he was also able to track the robber’s movements using a tracing app.

Murder case

The discovery echoes a chilling incident last year, in which a gang who murdered Wentsel Smit, of Rustenberg in North West, unwittingly uploaded pictures onto Smit’s personal Facebook site, using his smartphone. Smit’s widow, Lynette, alleged to Beeld that the pictures that popped onto her husband’s site were the faces of the killers themselves, who had also wounded her in the attack. No one has yet been arrested in the case.

Knott, 50, a buyer for a Kempton Park construction company, said thieves broke into a holiday cottage near Port Shepstone while he and his wife slept, taking five cellphones, jewellery, cash and ID books.

He said he and his wife were “lucky” to escape harm - since the robbers broke in with a bolt cutter “knowing full well that people were in the house”.

“We think they were disturbed and ran off,” he said.

Two weeks after reporting the crime, he said he was “playing around on my home computer” when he found that pictures taken on his BlackBerry phone after the robbery had dropped into his Google Photos file.

They included a picture of a pair of crossed legs with the stolen items arranged on the bed; and appeared to show a “selfie” of the suspect himself. They also include portraits of older people in formal attire with church pins, playful pictures of the family pet, and, strangely, an advertising-style photo of muscle relaxant products.

Knott said he had “basically come to know” the alleged thief and his family.

“They are ordinary people like you and me, though they clearly like to party outdoors. They wear nice two-piece suits; his parents seem like nice, church-going people - but I don’t think they have any idea about their son, who looks cold and aggressive to me. They should be asking how this new stuff came into the house.”

Knott admitted it was “theoretically possible” that the pictures were taken not by the thief, but by someone who had merely bought or received the stolen phone - but he said evidence of other stolen items in the pictures “makes it obvious this is the guy”.

SA's answer to 'Life of a Stranger Who Stole My Phone'

It is South Africa’s answer to “the story of Hafid” - a blog that publishes pictures of a Middle Eastern man who allegedly stole a German tourist’s smartphone last year, but forgot to switch off its Dropbox application.

The pictures show the same man ice skating, partying with friends, admiring a sports car; and, last week, parading jarringly unfashionable new clothes.

Every week, thousands of followers log in to the tourist’s blog - Life of a Stranger Who Stole My Phone - to see the life of an alleged thief, a Dubai man calling himself “Hafid”, unfold.

Knott said he was also able to trace the robber’s travels for two days, using GPS-tracking software on one of the other stolen phones, before having to blacklist the device.

He claimed that, initially, police “didn’t even ask for the photos to be sent”, but that they had subsequently incorporated the images in their ongoing investigation.

Earlier, police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane argued that publication of the pictures “may hinder the investigation”.

But Knott - who is keen to see the recovery of the ID books, in particular - said more than two months had elapsed without clear progress on the case.

“Surely something must come of it and I might even be able to solve the case myself,” he said.

Comments
  • Adriaan Steyn - 2014-02-21 12:50

    all this technology and still no arrests...??

      Mark Singh Singh - 2014-02-21 12:57

      Even if you make an arrest yourself and take the criminals to the cops, they will be out on the streets within a day.

      Rialine Steyn - 2014-02-21 13:14

      In South Africa the criminal has all the rights! Even if you can prove in clear colour photographs that hes a thief. And besides, I dont think the cops even know how the technology works, and probably too scared to even investigate something they have no understanding of, or have any interest to learn, as this would just give them more work to do.

      Lindie Verwoerd - 2014-02-21 13:37

      He shouldn't have left his belongings lying around open in the cottage. That was just asking to have it stolen

      Jonathan Woods - 2014-02-21 13:39

      Is it just that some people are incredibly stupid or incredibly arrogant? Probably both. And with all the technology and photo evidence how has it taken this long for the police to have made no progress?

      Andrew Terr - 2014-02-21 13:50

      30% pass mark

      Ronald Gibson - 2014-02-21 14:04

      Lindie, shame, now we all understand that you have self image issues and post here as you have no friends - their choice.

      jong.wat - 2014-02-21 14:16

      Lindie, are you okay? You seem to be a little retarded.

      Andrew Terr - 2014-02-21 14:20

      @jong.FULL retard!Making her @ss a bum.

      Riaan Van Schalkwyk - 2014-02-21 14:36

      @lindie never ever go full retard. Go sit in the corner Troll!!

      jungleboy - 2014-02-22 09:12

      This is the same Lindie that was insisting last week that all white people go back to Amsterdam! One can only pray that someone breaks into her shack and steals whatever device she is using to irritate an entire nation with stupidity.

      jungleboy - 2014-02-22 09:18

      I just figured it out... the idiot wearing lime green sunglasses indoors is Lindie's brother. Dam, and I thought he was the stupid one.

      Werner Botha - 2014-02-22 11:13

      Still no arrests because the typical south african policeman doesn't know his ar$e from his elbow...

      Joe Marshe - 2014-02-22 12:54

      And now they might see this article and wipe the phone...

      Ian Lowe - 2014-02-24 20:04

      Why arrest someone when you can make more money doing the tjo tjo

  • Chris Summers - 2014-02-21 12:50

    I had a Samsung S4 stolen from me that made it's way to Zambia (checked car registrations) and all the guy's pictures were being uploaded to my Dropbox, including of his rather chunky girlfriend / wife in various states of undress. Should have started a blog on his life as well...

  • Philile Maseti - 2014-02-21 13:12

    incompetent SAPS

  • Mahomed Mather - 2014-02-21 13:19

    What app is he using?

      jungleboy - 2014-02-22 09:14

      You auto backup all your files to Dropbox.

  • Stacy-Lee Walker - 2014-02-21 13:22

    Even if these guys are arrested - the maximum penalty they receive is community service or paying a fine to the state. They never really learn a lesson... So what is the point?

      Kobus Hattingh - 2014-02-21 13:29

      They must just make sure that he dont get to keep the phone with him whilst in jail. We dont want to see another party going on inside ;)

  • Iszi Doe - 2014-02-21 13:26

    SAPS incompetence and apathy shining through again.

  • L' Rainique Coetzee - 2014-02-21 13:41

    This reminds me of when I had an accident: a lady without a drivers license drove into me, I took her ID number and registration number down and when I reported the accident to police, offered to give them the info, but the officer wouldn't take it "because then we have to go look for her..." The police doesn't WANT to do their jobs - they want minimum input for maximum salary at the end of the month...

  • Marc Anthony Webb - 2014-02-21 14:02

    Self destruct mechanism C4 will do the trick, give the thief a few months to enjoy his selfies and then activate by calling him.

  • SunshinyDay - 2014-02-21 15:08

    It's pretty stupid of them to post names and a photo... all the robber has to do is read this article and ditch the phone.

  • Disema Fish Plaakie - 2014-02-21 15:14

    Stupid cops, too slow to respond. Its very easy to catch the oke

  • Martin Bekker - 2014-02-21 15:37

    Joe,,,offer a reward ,, bet you someone will turn him in ,,,this mr,Stupid mite even turn himself in out of greed..

  • KASI4LYF - 2014-02-21 16:08

    Mr Admin, i'm watching you. eversince every comment i make you delete privately. To me it seems the ombadsman need to be hinted about this cruelty. Go ahead again delete it. some other people's rights are still oppressed in this so called public platform. as you can notice i'm polite by nature but if the provocation continues i counter it at double the magnitude its coming to me

  • jembasharpe - 2014-02-21 16:24

    I had a similar incident happen to me, had my iPhone,2 iPads and a laptop stolen from my apartment, used find my iPhone and traced the devices to an area between Soweto and lenasia, took the evidence to the police that the phone was located at an address and after a few hours agreed to go with me to the address, pointed the police to the front door of dwelling where the trace was, and found an unsuspecting man with not only my devices but loads of other laptops, phones, cameras etc. police need to understand that tech like this does their job for them, all they need to do is follow the trace. The police were actually more surprised that the guy was found than the guy caught with all the stolen goods, who had pure dismay all over his face and could only utter the words "eish" when asked how he got all the goods.

      judge.smit - 2014-02-21 18:10

      That is just brilliant

      judge.smit - 2014-02-21 18:10

      That is just brilliant

  • Marc Moon - 2014-02-21 21:41

    Well, it seems like even when the police end up with even the most obvious evidence, they can't even catch the guy... Crime doesn't pay? Really?

  • Eric Fana Moloi - 2014-02-21 23:00

    Never ever think you have scored if you bought a stolen property, because of an advanced technology you might get more what you have bargained for,jail is mostly the sour results,or ended up loosing more.

  • Just Me - 2014-02-22 03:45

    I feel sorry for the owner that has to have so much trouble getting his own property back. Go hire a butch moer of a big bouncer, a BIG security guard that knows the area perhaps, then go to the address as shown on the Blackberry Website and, go get your phone back. Take a baseball bat with you to use as your own backup, if the big guy cant handle the situation.

  • Mapopi Janet Malakane - 2014-02-22 07:07

    I am in a simillar situation whereby my phones was stolen and would like to know how you managed to trace it on google mail.

  • steve.adams.524 - 2014-02-22 07:23

    Banana republic.

  • jungleboy - 2014-02-22 08:54

    Anyone wearing lime sunglasses indoors during the day deserves to be in jail. Little bugger probably stole them too. That looks just like my TV!!

  • shaun.terbruggen - 2014-02-22 12:47

    My daughter's Samsung was pick pocketed at an East Rand Mall two weeks ago. At 03h00 she too received photos Via Google. We traced the phone to Nigeria(!) and took great delight in 'wiping' it clean and blocking it. A pity would we could not get it to overheat and ignite ......!

  • shaun.terbruggen - 2014-02-22 12:47

    My daughter's Samsung was pick pocketed at an East Rand Mall two weeks ago. At 03h00 she too received photos Via Google. We traced the phone to Nigeria(!) and took great delight in 'wiping' it clean and blocking it. A pity would we could not get it to overheat and ignite ......!

  • shaun.terbruggen - 2014-02-22 12:47

    My daughter's Samsung was pick pocketed at an East Rand Mall two weeks ago. At 03h00 she too received photos Via Google. We traced the phone to Nigeria(!) and took great delight in 'wiping' it clean and blocking it. A pity would we could not get it to overheat and ignite ......!

  • shaun.terbruggen - 2014-02-22 12:47

    My daughter's Samsung was pick pocketed at an East Rand Mall two weeks ago. At 03h00 she too received photos Via Google. We traced the phone to Nigeria(!) and took great delight in 'wiping' it clean and blocking it. A pity would we could not get it to overheat and ignite ......!

  • shaun.terbruggen - 2014-02-22 12:47

    My daughter's Samsung was pick pocketed at an East Rand Mall two weeks ago. At 03h00 she too received photos Via Google. We traced the phone to Nigeria(!) and took great delight in 'wiping' it clean and blocking it. A pity would we could not get it to overheat and ignite ......!

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