Police powerless to act after couple track thieves

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2012
 Echo Liu with her husband, Frank Yeng, and 1-year-old son Jayden.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
LOST MEMORIES: Echo Liu with her husband, Frank Yeng, and 1-year-old son Jayden.

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A Christchurch couple used a GPS iPhone app to track burglars who had just fled from their home.

The software led the couple to two Gloucester St flats where the burglars were held up. They called police, but were told officers could not enter as they did not have a search warrant.

The thieves later made off and the stolen items have not yet been recovered.

On Saturday night, Echo Liu, her husband Frank Yeng and their 1-year-old son Jayden returned to their Matipo St home in Riccarton to discover they had been burgled.

Among the items taken were Liu's iPhone, her diamond watch, the family's computer and iPads.

"They took a lot of stuff. They even took my skin care and make-up products," Liu said.

But Liu said the "most heartbreaking part" was that her iPhone and the computer contained all their photos of their son.

The couple instantly thought to turn-on the "find my iPhone" software they had installed on Liu's phone.

Using Yeng's iPhone the GPS showed Liu's iPhone was moving from Matipo St towards Riccarton Rd.

Liu called the police and explained they were tracking the offenders.

Yeng got in his car and followed the vehicle to a Gloucester St property and waited.

When the police arrived at the couple's Matipo St home Liu said she was told they could not inspect the Gloucester St property without a search warrant, which could take days to obtain.

"I just can't tell you. It's such a terrible feeling. I was actually watching them take my stuff away," Liu said.

She felt search warrant legislation was "too strict" and offered protection to the "bad guys".

Inspector Alan Weston said police currently needed a search warrant to enter a property.

However, a new Search and Surveillance Act, which was to come into effect shortly, would make searching a property "a lot more simple", he said.

The act will enable an officer to enter a place or vehicle without warrant to search for and arrest a person if the constable has "reasonable grounds".

A police investigation into the burglary is ongoing.

Liu said that later that night the offenders moved from the Gloucester St property and stopped at a Southampton St address, in Sydenham. About 8.30pm the offenders turned off the GPS.

Inspector Weston said the evidence from the software would give police grounds to apply for a search warrant.

But Liu felt the items would now be long gone.

Left shaken by the burglary the couple are moving out of the Matipo St property, which has been their home for the past year.

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"I don't feel safe here anymore.

"I don't know what would have happened if me and Jayden were home at the time," Liu said.

Desperate to get her iPhone and the photos of her son back, Liu had since texted the iPhone, pleading with the burglars.

"I will give you $1000 if you give me my iPhone back because there's a lot of photos of my son. But I never got a reply of course.

"That stuff is so important for us. There's nothing left for us, only memories."

- The Press

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