iDetectives: family’s iPad chase for iPhone thieves

Tahira with her iPhone 4. Photo: Supplied

  • How to defeat the thieves after your iPad

The Donohoes had a bizarre run of bad luck recently when two of their family members’ iPhones were stolen just weeks apart.

Tahira, 13, had her iPhone stolen while at school last month. her mother, Fiona, had hers taken a couple of weeks earlier, when the family were on holiday at a Hilton hotel in Fiji in July.

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Hilton’s Fiji Beach Resort and Spa, where a hotel concierge stole Tahira’s mum’s iPhone.

But luckily for both of them they were able to recover their smartphones with the use of GPS tracking technology and one of the thieves’ lack of understanding of how an iPhone works. A Fiji hotel worker has been fired and jailed.

Tahira’s stolen iPhone involved an adventure. it was stolen while she was at school on August 3, the same day a hoax bomb was strapped to Madeleine Pulver in Mosman, Sydney, her father, Mark Donohoe, said.

“It was a funny day to do it,” Mr Donohoe, who lives in Mosman with his family, said of Tahira’s phone being stolen. “I’m glad we didn’t end up at Mosman police station [as] they might have been a little distracted I would guess.”

The stolen property report filed in Fiji.

Fiona’s iPhone turned out to have been stolen by a Hilton hotel concierge, who, as a result of Fairfax inquiries, has been dismissed and jailed for six months.

“The employee was terminated from employment at the Fiji Beach Resort and Spa and the matter handled by the local authorities,” Anne Marie Chua, spokeswoman for Hilton Worldwide, said.

Tahira made contact with her father about 2.30pm on the day, telling him her iPhone had been stolen. she wanted him to track it down using the find my iPhone software, which can be used to see remotely where an iPhone is on Google Maps, wipe it if need be, lock it and make it send out a loud pinging sound.

The software was installed on the phone as Mr Donohoe had an agreement with Tahira that she could have the iPhone as long as he knew where she was at all times using the software, which is free.

When Mr Donohoe opened the tracking software app on his iPad he saw the phone at a bus stop in Mosman and picked Tahira up from school and drove to it. “We were going to see if the girl that she thought [had taken the iPhone] was there,” he said. “[But] by the time we got there the bus had taken off.”

When looking at the iPad again, Mr Donohoe and his daughter saw that the location of the iPhone had moved. “It was an adventure because we were following along in the car and we had the iPad kind of following the position of the phone and it updates every, you know, 30 or 40 seconds or something like that.

“So we thought we knew the bus that we were following but we didn’t know much more besides that,” he said.

After following the bus from Mosman to Dee why, Mr Donohoe decided, upon seeking legal advice, that he would report the theft to Dee why police instead of continuing to chase the bus and thief.

He walked into Dee why police station, placed the iPad with the tracking software open on the counter, and said to the the police that he had a report of a robbery that was going on at that very moment.

“We said we’ve got this going on right now and they said [it was] fascinating and took the iPad and started watching and they realised it was in their area and where some of the policemen even lived.”

At various stages there were up to about five policeman surrounding the iPad, Mr Donohoe said. “But then they all dispersed and went into a [police] car and headed off to [find the iPhone].

“So one person stayed with their iPhone, looking at the iPad, giving directions to the others that went in the [police] car,” he said.

Upon reaching the latest position the iPhone was reporting, police asked Tahira for the name of the girl who she believed stole her phone. when a police officer yelled it out, the girl “started to run away”, Mr Donohoe said he was told by police while he waited at the station with the officer who was giving directions.

“The police ran after her and caught her and then they still couldn’t find the phone,” he said. “And [the policemen] said ‘can you do that ping thing that you said the phone can do?’ and so we set off the loud ping and at that stage it went off in the bottom of the bag and we found the phone and the girl ran off and he had to chase her again. it went rather oddly that way.”

It was a good thing that the iPhone tracking software was installed as the girl was due to move to another school the following day, Mr Donohoe said.

In a statement, NSW Police said the 13-year-old girl was arrested and taken to Dee why police station, where her mother was called.

“She admitted stealing the phone.”

“The victims indicated to police that they did not wish police to take any formal action against the girl, so she was issued a verbal warning in the presence of her mother and released.”

Now the only issue facing the family is what to do with the new phone they bought with insurance money to replace the iPhone that was stolen in Fiji.

The hotel employee was tracked down by accidentally synchronising all of their contacts with an online address book that Fiona had access to.

This reporter is on Twitter: @bengrubb

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