Home Uncategorised Ten years ago today: Sherlock Holmsenakis gets his men

Ten years ago today: Sherlock Holmsenakis gets his men

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Ten years ago I had my first positive experience of a new technology that has now become commonplace. Apple now calls it “Find My” and it allows one to track missing devices.

On this day in 2012, I was enjoying a Caesar salad in the Glyfada, Athens, branch of Goody’s, the Greek fast-food restaurant. The upper floor was deserted as I munched the salad and read the news on my iPhone. My bag rested on the chair beside me. Fatally, on this occasion, I’d forgotten to wrap the strap around my leg.

Glyfada cop shop in leafy Dousmani Street (image Google Street View)

Panic

I looked down and my bag had gone. And, with it, a brand-new MacBook Air, an iPad and all the usual bits and pieces. Something similar has probably happened to you, although I hope not. But you can imagine. First reaction is disbelief, followed by panic and then resignation. That’s it, I thought, I’d better call the insurance company and hope that the Time Machine disk back home in London is working.

After recovering from the numbing shock, I realised my first task would be to get a theft report from the police so I could make the claim. Despairing, I walked down Metaxa Street, the main drag, in the direction of the Astynomia, as the police are known in Greece.

I expected a couple of hours of bureaucracy and frustration in the rather dingy office on Dousmani Street. Instead, I found the most helpful bunch of law-keepers one could ever hope to meet. I was whisked up to see a young sergeant who was actually rather interested in doing something. First surprise. Immediately he asked if I’d tried Find My… Should have thought of that. The iPad, next to the MacBook Air, had a cellular connection and it was live.

Scene of the crime, Goody’s in Glyfada seen in a recent shot from Google Street View. My thieves, however, were a bit more subtle than this snatching job

Riot

As soon as I fired up the phone we saw a dot representing my belongings moving at walking pace across Syntagma Square right in the centre of Athens. This was a good 10km north of where I was sitting in the cop shop on the coast, and it was clear that my bag had been whisked there on a fast motor cycle.

It was the time of civil unrest in Greece and there was a full-scale riot going on in Plateia Syntagmatos as my bag was carried across the square. The good sergeant in Glyfada got on to colleagues in the city centre and within minutes a posse of plain-clothes cops was out searching for the evil doers who had failed to realise they had a time bomb in their hands. Unknown to them, turn-by-turn instructions were being relayed from my iPhone in Glyfada.

There then followed twenty minutes of suspense as the officers tracked the bag down Ermou, on through Petraki and then along Mitropoleos in the direction of the Monastiraki market. Then came the call: “Two foreigners” had been arrested trying to sell my bag and belongings in the market.

Syntagma Square, Athens, in the summer of 2012. Here started the quest for the stolen Apple gear (photo Mike Evans, Leica M9)

Blues and twos

Elliniki Astynomia, a good bunch of chaps

An hour later a police patrol, blues and twos1 a blast, screeched to a halt in front of the Glyfada police station. Two miserable twenty-somethings in handcuffs were unloaded and marched off to the interview room. My bag, Mac and iPad, were returned to me immediately. Many police forces would have tried to hold on to the evidence until the trial.

I ended February 10 in 2012 with kindly thoughts of Apple and the Glyfada Police department. In the cells in Odos Dousmani, less charitable thoughts were in progress. I felt absolutely sure things wouldn’t have turned out so happily in London or in most other major cities.

The sequel came two years later in early 2014. I was summoned to appear in court in Athens to act as witness for the prosecution. The poor bag snatchers had been in custody all that time and had had plenty of time to ponder the error of their ways. As it happened, my presence wasn’t needed in the end and I assumed they were dealt with appropriately.

But we can draw some conclusions: If you are going to lose an Apple product, do it in Greece because the Elliniki Astynomia might be most helpful police force you could find. On the other hand, if you plan to steal an Apple product, try not to do it in Greece because the consequences can be unpredictable and protracted.


  1. For non-British readers, this is old police parlance for “blue lights and two-tone horns”

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8 COMMENTS

  1. You were extremely fortunate Mike, and grateful to the Police having the capability to organise, direct and recover your items so swiftly. And I suspect two years in custody to even get to a hearing is less likely here, and even less likely to be the punishment too.

    It is always nice to hear about positive stories around this type of theft. I have a friend who tells a story of his daughter was on holiday in Barcelona with friends, and had her IPhone stolen. She rang her dad here in the UK, who rang Apple care, even though the phone was switched off, they could find it. They killed the phone, downloaded an imprint on to a new IPhone and had it delivered to her hotel in Barcelona a day later – she thankfully lost nothing of value other than her original phone case.

    Enjoy the weekend folks.

  2. On a positive note, I have preordered a Voigtlander APO 90mm f2.8 m mount lens. Earlier I have also preordered a Voigtlander m mount 50mm f1.0 that looks promising. Voigtlander sure is delivering glass lately that makes building a M camera system quite affordable and second to none in rendering in my opinion. Now, if voigtlander would make an evf m mount camera – what an earthquake.

  3. You were very very fortunate. The police in Canada are too busy dealing with major crimes like speeding and wrestling an elderly great grandfather to the ground for honking his horn in support of demonstrating truckers…sounds like you have sold me on a travel destination.

    When I do photography, I carry bear spray for protection against dangerous creatures…

  4. Very, very fortunate! If that happened in the US you would be treated by a shrug, a form to fill in and absolutely no hope that your kit would be recovered. The best advice is always to have what’s truly valuable backed up into the cloud and to have the kit insured.

  5. Very pleased that it all ended well for you Mike. When my iPhone and wallet were stolen in Barcelona I used that program to wipe the phone remotely. An hour or so after the theft the bank cards had been cancelled. The next day I noticed the locals on the train wore belt bags (fanny packs or bum bags depending on the language) in front of them. So that’s something I must remember next time. Always ‘next time’!

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