Happiness is the return of a stolen computer, with data intact

17:00, May 26 2010
Detective Constable Matt Reynolds, left, with Claudio de Sassi
DATA DELIGHT: Detective Constable Matt Reynolds, left, is delighted to reunite PhD student Claudio de Sassi with his stolen computer yesterday.

Never has a man been so happy to see a computer full of data spreadsheets.

Claudio De Sassi's world fell apart when a car containing almost three years work towards his PhD was stolen two weeks ago.

De Sassi, a Canterbury University academic, could not hide his joy yesterday as police reunited him with his stolen laptop and backpack.

However, the laptop had been "decorated" by the thieves with a sticker depicting a skull in a military helmet, and in the backpack he uncovered a bike pump and bike light that did not belong to him.

"It's fantastic," he said.

"It looks like I wanted – plus some presents."

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De Sassi had been in The Bicycle Thief restaurant with a visiting American academic when they emerged to find De Sassi's Nissan car missing and replaced with another stolen Nissan.

"For the first five seconds we couldn't believe it, then the shock fades off and we realised the car was really gone," De Sassi said.

"I slowly realised the coincidence of having everything in the bag.

"It was not a happy night."

The thesis was his research on the impact of climate change on subalpine tussock grasslands.

The theft forced him to consider returning to his native Switzerland with nothing to show for almost three years work.

Detective Constable Matt Reynolds said the property was recovered after police pulled over three teenagers in a stolen car.

A search warrant for a lockup and each boy's home address produced car parts and allegedly stolen property.

The Christchurch police electronic crime laboratory matched De Sassi with his lost work after removing the hard drive and scanning the files, Reynolds said.

The files revealed De Sassi's name and the puzzle was complete.

Three teenagers, aged 15, 16 and 17, will appear in court.

As De Sassi checked files and rifled through his backpack to check his belongings, he mumbled "fantastic" and then found his friend's folder.

"He will probably be excited about that".

De Sassi must work for another year before his doctorate is completed.

He plans to back up his work daily, and he may keep the sticker as a memento.

The Press