Caroline and I were watching The Fall in our front room when the intruder entered our house. Not great timing on his part, considering The Fall is a BBC drama series about a serial killer who breaks into people’s homes, then tortures and murders them.
Thankfully, we never actually set eyes on him. We only discovered we’d been burgled when we returned to the kitchen to load the dishwasher and found various items missing. But still. Caroline was probably more upset than she would have been if we’d been watching Eat, Pray, Love — which we wouldn’t have been, obviously, because it’s complete drek.
I was up most of the night trying to catch the bugger. It quickly became clear that the only things he’d stolen were Apple products — a MacBook Air, a MacBook, an iPad 1, an iPad 2, two iPods and my iPhone. And if you think that’s a lot of Apple devices for one household, I count myself lucky that he didn’t get my MacBook Pro, my wife’s iPhone or my son’s iPad Mini, all of which were with us in the sitting room. Or, indeed, my iPod, my iMac or my two Apple TVs.
OK, OK, so I’m a Mac-oholic. But the good thing about Apple devices is that you can load an app on to most them called ‘Find My iPhone’ which enables you to track them down via Google Maps if they ever get lost. When I discovered I’d been robbed by the Apple burglar — is this the urban version of scrumping? — the first thing I did was to launch the tracking programme on my MacBook to see if any of the stolen goods were broadcasting a signal. Sure enough, there on the screen was a pulsing green dot about half a mile from my house. It was my iPad 2!
When the police arrived, I pointed this out to them and was impressed by how quickly they seized the opportunity. They radioed a patrol officer with an iPad of his own, got him to log in as me so he could see the green dot, then sent him off in pursuit.
There were no obvious suspects in the vicinity — no hoodies playing Angry Birds — but ‘Find My iPhone’ was precise enough to pinpoint the location to a single residence. The burglary unit at Acton Police Station then approached the Department of Public Prosecutions to try and get a search warrant, but the official on duty refused to wake up a magistrate. It would have to wait till morning.
This was immensely frustrating, as you can imagine, because at any moment the scallywag could discover his mistake and switch off my iPad. If I was a magistrate, I’d make a point of letting the DPP know I could be woken at any hour of the night if it would help the police catch a criminal. Nevertheless, the burglary unit kept at it and got their warrant at 10.30 the following morning. It was at that point that I cycled over to the street in question to witness the raid. I wanted to see the toerag being cuffed and bundled into the back of a police car.
Unfortunately, by the time I got there they’d already searched the house and come up empty-handed. Turns out ‘Find My iPhone’ isn’t that accurate. Four plainclothes officers were sitting in their cars waiting for two more warrants to be issued so they could search the neighbouring properties. One of them told me they had a couple of other men staking out the back in case anyone tried to make a run for it.
I must say, it was reassuring to see how seriously the Acton burglary unit were taking this crime, but I suppose it’s not every day that a criminal mastermind is broadcasting his whereabouts with a pulsing green dot.
They eventually struck gold in the third house they raided and my iPad 2 was officially ‘recovered’. Alas, the occupant wasn’t the thief. Rather, he’d bought the iPad off someone the previous night — or so he said. There was no sign of the other six Apple products and, according to the police, little hope of recovering them. It’s hugely annoying to be burgled and two of the devices belonged to my nine-year-old daughter, who is naturally very upset. But I’m pleased to have got at least one of the items back and grateful to the police for the efforts they made.
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Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.
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