- Location: Utrecht, Netherlands.
- Date Stolen: January 7, 2012.
- Date Recovered: January 24, 2012.
- Theft: At a bar.
- Missing items: Laptop.
- Police reaction: See story!
- Time it took for first report to arrive: 16 days.
- Once received, time it took for police to recover it: See story.
- Final thoughts: See story!
Full story below:
Initially I thought it was just a fun idea to install Prey. Little did I know that I’d actually need it, and soon. Only a week after I had bought my new laptop I went to a bar with a friend, and yes, we had a couple of beers. The bag with the brand-new computer in it just slipped my mind for a while I guess, which wouldn’t have been a disaster if it weren’t for mister Butts… I refer to him as mister Butts for reasons clarified by the picture above. He had a long conversation over Skype in which he repeatedly typed in the following request: “SHOW ME UR A**HOLE”. I guess it was his thing.
But back to the night it all started…
When I got home I immediately activated Prey from my old laptop. Nothing happened, for weeks. I was sure that I had lost the thing for good, until almost three weeks later I opened my email inbox. To my big surprise, ten reports from the previous night were waiting for me. Suddenly, I knew where my computer was, what had been done with it, and most importantly, exactly what the a**hole who had it looked like. Even more surprising was the fact that he was staying in a hotel only a few blocks away from my house.
I printed some of the photos, and took a friend and my computer with all the data to the hotel, where we proceeded to wait in the lobby. Meanwhile, I called the police, who came by but said they couldn’t do anything without a warrant, which was impossible to obtain at such short notice. They told us to wait for the guy to show up, call ‘911’ and keep him there until police arrived. The waiting part was relatively easy…
At the reception, they told us that the room on the photos was almost certainly one in their hotel. However, they weren’t allowed to ID the guy for us. Well, we had to try I guess, but we weren´t James Bond and we knew it. We politely asked for them to notify us if they saw the guy in the picture, proceeded to sit down in ‘ambush mode’, meanwhile sampling the hotel’s coffee supply, and gradually losing hope of ever succeeding at this weird endeavour. Fortunately, we could entertain ourselves with the sordid material mister Butts had unknowingly
bestowed upon us through the webcam on my computer.
Meanwhile, the hotel lobby was filling up with business people in suits having (late) breakfast, and then more for lunch. None of the people we saw even remotely resembled the guy in the picture. Did the program mess up and send us random data? Was this strange odyssey a waste of time?
After three hours, one of the elevator doors opened, revealing someone who was in every respect unlike anything we had seen so far. A young man, unkempt, wearing a wifebeater shirt and track pants, came slouching into the lobby. It was our guy. We didn’t need to check the photo. Mister Butts hadn’t even taken the trouble to change his clothes.
Quite unbeknownst to what we were dealing with (just an ordinary fencer, the actual thief, a heavy weight criminal with a gun?) we approached him carefully and explained the situation in the most friendly manner. He was cooperative, but asked us after a while if he could grab his coat upstairs, which we (stupidly) allowed him to do. He returned, but there was no coat. When we asked about it, he evaded us. Frankly, all of the things he said during our conversation were bull**it. He said that he didn’t have my computer, but that he did trade in them, and that he couldn’t tell, or whatever… It was the kind of story that sounds as apologetic as it is incoherent, and I can’t repeat it here because I’m not good at remembering incoherent things.
Police arrived on the scene, and there was a long conversation between the two officers and mister Butts, whose English suddenly improved dramatically. For some reason, he was gradually joined by quite a few Arabs, who were also staying at the hotel. I guess they were the guys buying the stuff off him. Actually, seeing them (the cops later told us they were Lybian ex-rebels, believe it or not) made us realise that we probably made the right decision by not following the guy to his room when he was “getting his coat”, or escalating the situation in any other way. Although I guess we’re still a bit grumpy about messing that part up, because of course he had hidden my laptop when he was upstairs, or given it to his buddies who hid it for him, dammit. Anyway, when more officers arrived and started searching his room, they didn’t find my laptop – big surprise. Meanwhile, however, questioning of the guy and inspection of our evidence continued, and it became clear to the officers that they could at least take him in for handling stolen goods, since he couldn’t deny having used my computer that same night in the hotel.
So they took the – still surprisingly relaxed and polite – mister Butts away and left in their car. My friend, who had patiently been my side-kick for three hours, had to leave, and the six to eight Lybians in the lobby were quietly minding their own business ignoring me or pretending to. The cops searching the room left, leaving me in the hotel feeling out of place and a bit disappointed: still no laptop. I hung around for a bit and begged to one of the Lybians to at least leave the laptop at the reception, to which he responded with a blank look. Me no speak English… F**king asshole…
Not long after I had returned home the police called me in for questioning. They wanted more information about the circumstances under which my computer had been stolen. Later that evening, they told me over the phone that mister Butts was still being questioned about my laptop and that they would try to keep him there as long as possible. After that they asked me what I could tell them about this peculiar little program I had on my computer which had provided them with so much evidence. Furthermore, they gave me good hopes of
retrieving my computer, since my laptop was confirmed stolen ware and therefore useless to the new owner.
The next day I got a call at work from the officer working my case, and he told me that they had found the laptop, and that I could come and pick it up at the station. As it happened, they got mister Butts for fencing and gave him a 450 euro fine. They’d kept him at the station for one night and apparently he chose to talk.
And now I am once again the happy owner of my computer.