Where's Yours? Student tracks down stolen phone

iPhoneA student turned high-tech detective to catch a thief who stole his mobile using satellite technology.

The thief was arrested after quick-thinking student James Bird and a friend tracked the phone half-a-mile through Manchester City Centre.

James, 20, used the free 'Find My iPhone' app, which relies on GPS technology, to follow the mobile's signal and pinpoint its position.

One friend monitored the phone's movements on his computer giving James' and another friend a running commentary on his phone, and they chased him to a bus and alerted police.

James, an aerospace engineering student at Manchester University, said: “I doubt many people get their phone back that quickly when it's been stolen, but I would have been pretty lost without mine.”

The second-year student, was working in a computer lab at the university when he noticed his £500 phone had disappeared from his desk.

His friend Nick Crisp activated the app by typing in details of James' phone.

The satellite showed it was on Upper Brook Street moving away from the university, prompting James and friend Alex Bennett to give chase.

Nick remained behind to track the phone and relay updates to Alex on his mobile.

James, from Burnley, said: “We saw a man ahead and ended up running after him for about half-a-mile.”

They sprinted through a subway then got on the bus after the suspect.

James said: “I got on the bus after him and said 'you've got my phone haven't you?'. He said no and showed me his pockets. But the bus driver said 'we're not going anywhere until you prove you haven't got his phone’.

“I was out of breath because I'd just run all the way up the street, but I blocked the door and the bus driver said he wouldn't move.”

“Finally the guy said 'here you go' and gave me it back, but he didn't say sorry or anything like that. He just got off the bus and walked away.”

James alerted officers who were nearby to the situation and the man was arrested moments later.

James added: “I was just relieved to get the phone back and grateful to the technology that made it possible.”

The man was charged with theft and burglary and got a 10-month sentence suspended for two years, a two-year supervision order and a six-month drug rehabilitation order.

James’s foresight in taking crime reduction precautions and his quick thinking and courage led to a prolific offender being brought to justice. The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Peter Fahy awarded James with a Commendation for his brave actions.

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