This evening, I was walking along Anderson Place from Bonnington Road, and I saw this shot I wanted to take of the moon over the Water of Leith. So I stopped, put my backpack on the ground, took out my camera (dropped my mobile phone into my backpack without thinking about it) and got this picture at 5:07:31.
Looking down Anderson Place towards South Fort Street, I liked the effect of street lights and shadows and reflections and took a few shots of the street in low light. I saw no one. This picture was taken at 5:09:18. There is someone in the shot: I just didn’t see them.
I took a few more shots – walking out into the road, since it was quiet, and then crossed the road to take pics of the river from the other side of the bridge. I glanced back at my rucksack and thought of picking it up, but there seemed nobody about – the street was completely quiet. This picture was taken at 5:10:26. The last picture I took before packing up to go home was at 5:10:54.
And that was when I realised my backpack had disappeared.
As I had seen and heard no one, this was spooky. I went home and used my landline to call my mobile phone – got no answer. I went back to Anderson Place and checked as well as I could anywhere I thought someone might have chucked my backpack (a sturdy grey nylon with orange trim, which held, besides my mobile phone and my Nook, a good deal of other stuff of no intrinsic value to anyone except myself). No, I didn’t find it.
I went home, tried my mobile number again several times – it went directly to voicemail every time – and reported the theft to the police via 101. They were helpful and polite (someone called back very promptly to get further details). O2 were less helpful, but I found that the Chat page will let you have your phone barred so that no one can use it, either hardware or sim card. There’s nothing I can do about my Nook except be annoyed.
Someone – see below – simply walked past and picked it up. I lost my phone and my Nook and the rucksack itself, which was a good sturdy model, and of course all the oddments in it.
Gone, because someone thought “oh hey, she’s not looking, I’ll just take that.”
When I downloaded the photographs and looked at them on my desktop, I saw in one of them someone who’d been walking down South Fort Street towards Bonnington Road. You cannot see their face, or really anything about them (unfortunately, I took the photos in JPG not RAW format). I’ve notified the police that the photo exists. The timing is just right for this person to be the one who walked past my backpack and walked off with it.
I didn’t think of doing this on Sunday, but on Monday morning I went out again not long after it got light, and by 8am was standing where my backpack was stolen on Saturday evening. The person who did it had been walking along Anderson Place, on the Bond Building side of the road, and the theft couldn’t have been premeditated: they’d seen me walk away from my backpack, and they’d walked right by it and picked it up. What had they done then? They’d known they wouldn’t have very long before I turned back.
I didn’t think they’d crossed the road (though on the offchance that it would have been on their route home, I checked where they could have ditched it just on the corner of Bonnington Road). I thought they’d probably taken the first possible option to get out of my line of sight, which would have been the connecting road through the Bond Building to Breadalbane Street. Or, they might have walked on quite quietly to Bonnington Road, but I thought they would have turned left, not right: downhill, and avoided crossing the road, and convenient for the path through Pilrig Park. Again on the offchance that they had just chucked my backpack away, I checked the brownfield site behind the hedge on Stanwell Street Path. It wasn’t there. Finally, I came back to Bonnington Road: there were three big rubbish bins, the sort designed for a block of flats, behind a shoulder-high fence, slightly concealed by a hedge. Two of the bins were mostly empty, easy enough to check. The third bin was crammed full of rubbish in plastic carrier bags and black sacks. I started lifting the bags out of the full bin and putting them into one of the emptier bins.
Then, not far down, I came to a cloth bag with a Real Foods logo, tied shut by its handles. I shop at Real Foods and have one of their cloth bags. I picked it out and opened it up – it was tied quite tightly. Inside: a mess of stuff, papers and a couple of London Review of Books, and my old specs case.
My backpack is gone: probably forever. My Nook and my mobile phone are gone, though the phone itself is useless now it’s been barred by O2.
The thief picked up my backpack: walked along the street until (probably) turning left into the connection to Breadalbane Street, when they would have been immediately out of sight. They might have turned again to go through the car park of the Bond building: or, if they were bold enough and wanted to avoid the CCTV cameras in the Bond, they might have gone directly along Anderson Place until they reached Bonnington Road. But they didn’t stop until they had reached that secluded spot on Bonnington Road, where they would be out of sight and uninterrupted. They emptied my backpack of everything that carried my name – all the papers and my business cards, and a few oddments useless to them – cloth bags, a specs case. They dumped the cloth bag into the nearest bin. If I hadn’t checked that morning, this would have been gone forever: less than five minutes after I found it, the rubbish van came by to empty the bins.
And doubtless, someone has been offered, cheap, a black Nook in a black cover, visibly not new, restored to its factory settings: a grey nylon backpack with orange trim, also not new: maybe a Nokia 1030 mobile phone, if they can unbar it. Whoever bought them is as complicit in this theft as the person who just walked by and went off with my stuff.
I rang 101 and spoke to someone who advised me to take the bag I’d retrieved over to Leith Police Station, where they would be able to tell me if they could find fingerprints on any of the stuff in the bag. So I did, and this is how the conversation went:
Me: “My backpack was stolen on Saturday, I have the crime incident report number…”
LPSdesk: “On Saturday? Then how do you know it was stolen? Maybe someone just picked it up to hand it in!”
Me: “Well, I reported it stolen on Saturday night – ”
LPSDesk: “Where was it stolen from?”
Me: “Anderson Place. I stepped away from it for a few minutes to take some photos.”
LPSDesk: “What do you want us to do about it?”
Me: “Well, if you’d let me finish?” I described how I’d spotted the figure in the photos above, and that I’d retraced the route I believed they had gone, and that in one of the rubbish bins in the first secluded spot, I’d found a cloth bag from my backpack, filled with papers and oddments from my backpack. “I rang 101 and they suggested I come over here because you might be able to get fingerprints from some of the items.”
LPSDesk: “I’ll see if it’s been assigned to an officer.” She went away to check. Someone else who had come in after me, gave up at that point and went out again. When she came back, she said, much more nicely, that no, the incident had not been assigned to an officer, and that there was no point leaving anything with them until the incident had been assigned. At that point – probably in about five days – the officer would call me.
So I went away again. The bag is tucked under a chair in my flat. It is one of the mildly annoying things about a centralised police force that there was apparently no way for me to phone Leith Police Station and be told by phone “no, there is no point in you handing any possible evidence to us at this time” which would have saved me a bus trip. I had coffee in Printworks Cafe. I still feel bloody annoyed with the thief and with whoever’s bought my stuff.