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Durban - Using the latest cellphone and Apple iPad technology, a Durban North couple led police to where a gang of burglars was hiding out with their stolen goods.
Police also recovered bags of stolen clothing, shoes, credit and debit cards as well as flat screen television sets from other house break-ins and robberies, including the couple’s neighbour. One of the gang was arrested.
Shauna Wynne Cole said the men had broken into their Highdale Road home while they were asleep on Monday night.
“We never heard a thing. But when we woke up in the morning we realised that our cellphones, iPad, wallets, takkies and watch were missing,” she said.
Her husband, Richard, activated “find my iPhone” (a GPS satellite tracking application) on his home computer and within seconds found the GPS location of the stolen items.
The application can be downloaded free of charge from the internet (http://ipod.about.com/od/usingios4/ss/Set-Up-Find-My-Iphone.htm).
“It was amazing how fast the application worked. A satellite image came up and we could see the phone was at a house in Inanda,” Wynne Cole said.
“An hour later the phone location moved to a spaza shop in the area.”
She said they borrowed a neighbour’s iPad to activate the satellite image and go mobile, heading them for Greenwood Park police station.
Using the GPS the couple went with police to Inanda.
“I was terrified, but also determined to get our stuff back. I just prayed the thieves were not armed,” she said.
“We parked the cars at the top of a road in the township and walked to the tuck shop. We were creeping through the bushes with the iPad, which led us to the exact location of the shop.”
With no sign of life at the shop, the police moved to a nearby house.
There they spotted five men loading a television into the boot of a car.
“When they spotted us they started running in all directions. One of them had a backpack with all our stuff in it. Another was also wearing Richard’s watch,” Wynne Cole said.
She said a local resident told them the thieves were “really bad guys”.
“I told him that I just wanted our stuff back. We were not insured. He promised to negotiate with them,” she said. “Seconds later one of the suspects called him on his cellphone.”
She said the resident negotiated with the man and he promised to return the bag.
By 5pm of the same day, the couple had their stuff back.
“I was shocked. He kept to his word and everything except the phone was returned. They probably sold it. We could not track it anymore because they had turned it off.”
The men had handed the goods to a third party, she said.
Wynne Cole said inside the gang’s house they saw suitcases of new, branded clothing, shoes and perfume.
“Loads of debit, credit and Smart Shopper cards were also found in the house.”
She said police linked the goods to several other house burglaries and robberies.
“A family up the road from us managed to get back a whole bunch of their stuff and various people from Tipuana Drive. It seems like the same gang has been hitting our area.”
Annual crime statistics released by police last year showed that there were 589 burglaries in residential areas in Durban North between April 2011 and March 2012.
During the same period there were 16 766 burglaries recorded in KZN and 41 120 in the country.
Earlier in the week, a foreign tourist on holiday in Durban used the same technology to help police recover her iPad, which had been stolen from her at a local casino.
The device was recovered at a Greenwood Park home. The woman apparently told police she had found it in a public toilet.
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said a man aged 30 was arrested in connection with Wynne Cole’s burglary. He will appear in a Durban court on March 26.