Phone thief flirts with victim’s contacts

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A HOUSE robber who allegedly stole cellphones from an East Bank home at gunpoint later tried to flirt with women on the contact list of the one of the stolen phones.

The incident was related to TotT by Mike Varela, who was at home with his girlfriend at the time the robber struck in the early hours of November 12. He asked for his girlfriend’s identity to be kept confidential.

“I was using the bathroom when I heard her calling out from the bedroom. She called repeatedly which made it sound urgent,” Varela said.

He said he heard bumps in the dark, but by the time he got back to the bedroom the intruder had fled.

“He jumped out the window in the garage flat. There were signs of forced entry.”

Varela’s girlfriend said she had seen a figure leaning over the bedside table. He had a gun and motioned for her to be quiet. He took two cellphones and fled.

“[My girlfriend] pressed the panic button. I must commend Multi Security on their fast response. And a large force of cops came shortly afterward. From that level of the cops I have no problem whatsoever,” Varela said.

But he took issue with how detectives handled the case thereafter.

“The next day I got a sim swap, getting my own number. A couple days afterward I started to get strange SMS’s and Whatapp messages which made it seem he [the robber] had been using my number in the time before the sim swap,” Varela said.

“An ex-girlfriend called my mom to see if I was OK as she got a strange message from my number. I later found he had sent messages to two other women on my contact list.

Varela showed TotT the messages, which said things like: “I’m listen love songs”, and “Plzzz take me as you lov you my sweat chclate”. When one woman responded that it looked like the sender had the wrong person, he asked “Wy you tlkng like so”.

Varela said the detectives were meant to see his girlfriend on November 15 to do paperwork and show photographs of suspects, but had never showed up.

“On November 17 I went to see CID and told them about the messages I had received and that my ex had received and stressed the priority of the case. I was told the detective in charge of the case had gone on leave and by the next day he would get hold of us to commence the investigation.

“By November  21 I had heard nothing and went to see them again. I once again stressed the importance of the case, that I had numbers from people who messaged me that could be friends of the suspect and that there were possibly women in danger who the suspect was calling,” Varela said.

He said detectives eventually met with his girlfriend a week after they said they would.

“When I discovered the process they have to go through to get my cell phone records, taking up to two months, I offered to drive through to Port Elizabeth myself and get them from MTN if the police would pay my petrol.”

But the police said they could not do this.

Police spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender responded on behalf of the detective commander, and insisted that the investigating officer had been in constant contact with Varela.

“Several appointment dates have been set with the complainant. The case is still under investigation. The complainant brought in some phone numbers which he alleged were that of the suspects. Follow-ups of this have been made. Other investigative procedures were also exhausted,” Govender said.

“The stolen cellphones do not have a tracking application and the complainant is unhappy with the process of tracking the cellphones that the SAPS are using.

“We are in contact with our unit that is busy with the tracing of the cellphones.”

Govender said the branch commander had also contacted Varela and provided him with feedback on his case.

A still dissatisfied Varela said the police response merely reinforced the problem.

He said his concerns were about “a potential escalation of the nature of these housebreakings, the people on my contact list which I don’t have anymore, and I want the police to do their job.”

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