One day in Mid-January on Grocery Shopping Day, around 4:30 in the afternoon, I realised we needed to go and get some chicken breast in bulk. So off we toodled.. On arrival back home, I noticed some rubbish in the street. This is not unusual for where we live, unfortunately. We have one set of neighbours who seem to think it is totally fine to leave stuff on their verge for random folk to collect any time, and wind blows it across to our side of the street. But something about this rubbish seemed odd to me, so I went to check.
On looking at it, I discovered it was stuff most folks would keep in the glovebox of their car. Rego papers, car purchase paperwork, receipts from hotels and shops, a temporary frequent flyer card. It all had the same name on it.
We’re normally “don’t get involved” people. However on the 26th of December 2017 there was a big crash down our way. You may have heard about it, because one of the people involved was once on Home and Away. If not, this article has some info.
A few weeks before that, we had driven down to Ulladulla. On our way back we saw some very bad driving from a white Pajero with P plates on it. But we see a lot of bad driving on the roads, and what can you do? Not much, really. I will never know now if this was the same guy or not, our footage overwrites the old footage and by the time this crash happened it was gone.
The guy who ran into this lovely family and murdered them all – plus himself – was driving a white Pajero with P plates. He had a terrible driving history and had been disqualified from driving and even jailed for driving while disqualified. They believe he was returning from the methadone clinic when he crossed to the wrong side of the road. I can’t help thinking all those what if thoughts. What if I’d taken that footage to the police? Would it have made a difference?
So when I saw all this paperwork, I said to the other half, I’m going to go collect it all up and put it into a plastic bag because I would not want that stuff out there in the street if it were mine, and while I do that can you check the CCTV cameras and see when this stuff appeared here?
How do you do that, I hear you asking. We’ve done it before many times, but here is a quick rundown on logistics. I’ll give you our stolen bin example. First, you want to find the item on camera both in daytime and at night time – because things look different at night when it switches to infra-red. Then you check the camera at 10pm – bin still there? 11pm – bin still there? Midnight – bin still there? 1am = bin gone. Ok, lets go back to midnight then fast forward through this hour and find where the bin theft happens.
It turned out the paperwork had arrived just after 8:30 in the morning. There was a guy walking up the street, then a car comes into frame. He tells it where to park, which is right out the front of our house. The front passenger gets out, and he and the street guy go take a pee against our fence. Their faces are clearly caught on camera.
The driver of the vehicle appears to be looking through the car. The front seat passenger finishes his pee and gets back in the car. The street guy finishes his pee and gets into the rear of the vehicle. Just before the vehicle leaves, the front door opens, and all the papers are shoved out of the vehicle by the front seat passenger.
None of this seems like normal behaviour of a car owner to me, so I am now assuming this car has been stolen. And stupidly one of the papers they threw out had the car rego, so I get on the phone to the police. I give the call centre operator the rego, and she suddenly gets very excited. Can we send someone around to collect the footage, she says. Of course you can.
I type the name on the paperwork into The Google And Tubes, and the first person with that name who pops up happens to work behind the scenes in television for one of our major tv networks. Oh, that can’t be the guy, says me. I find a few others with the same name. I wait for the police. Nobody arrives. We have to put off grocery shopping because we can’t leave until they get here. Time passes, and passes.
I do a little more searching and find a Facebook Profile. This guy with the same name I see on the paperwork seems just like us, he likes planes, and Star Wars. But I am not sure about contacting anyone. What am I going to say? Around 10:30 I figure the police are not going to show up and it is time to take matters into my own hands, so I send a message to Star Wars Facebook Guy. Are you the (name) whose (vehicle name) was stolen today?
The answer comes back almost right away. Yes, that is me. How do you know that? I suddenly have a lot of explaining to do. I let him know I have all his paperwork, and am waiting for the police to come and get it, and that we have the car thieves on CCTV. He lets me know he is down on the South Coast on holidays and the car was stolen sometime overnight.
We chat for about 20 minutes, about this and about other things, it turns out he *is* the guy who works behind the scenes in television and eventually he says he is going back up to Sydney tomorrow and if the police don’t get the paperwork would we mind if he stops in and grabs it. He has a friend who is going to take him back to Sydney. I go and talk to The Other Half – who is a bit more concerned with this concept, but I talk him round, and I suggest to Star Wars Facebook Guy that they drop in for coffee the next morning.
We did not get very much sleep that night. First of all, every noise we heard had us checking the cameras. Secondly, I had a lot of thoughts going through my mind. One of them was.. if this was our car, I might find it difficult to watch this footage. We are people very attached to our cars. Some people aren’t, and that is fine, but we sure are. Another of them was, this walking down the street guy must live around here. That is a disturbing thought.
Bright and early the next morning, Star Wars Facebook Guy and his friend arrive. I check in with him and say hey, I have realised this footage might be a bit upsetting to watch, are you sure you want to see this? He says yes, so into the computer room we all troop, and watch the footage several times from different angles. On rewatching, we could see that these guys were not at all worried about fingerprints, and that made me think this car would be found burned out somewhere. That happens quite a lot these days, sadly.
Then we spend the next two hours chatting and drinking coffee. It turns out this guy has been at almost every major event of significance to happen in Australia for some years now. Any event I can think of and name, he was there. Everything from fires to floods to political happenings to royal tours. He was completely fascinating, and his friend was just as much so. We are now friends on the Facebook and I hope we will get to meet up again sometime.
The police arrived a couple of hours later, viewed the footage and were provided with a copy of their own. The truth about our local police is they have a large area to cover, they are so overworked and have so much to do, and then when things go to court the judges do not really hold criminals accountable for their actions. I think that needs to change.
A bit of time passed. One day I got a Facebook notification that Star Wars Facebook Guy had sent me a photo. As I feared, his car was found burned out. He’d gone to see it and taken some photos. The car was used in an armed robbery then set alight.
So why am I telling you this story. I debated whether or not I should, as this one is not really my story to tell. There are two reasons –
1. I want to remember this many years from now, so I am writing it down.
2. I want to make the point that sometimes getting involved in someone else’s business is the right thing to do. It actually can turn out to be a great thing if we are brave enough to step up. Sometimes picking up some rubbish in the street might save someone else a lot of heartache – that paperwork had all the information I needed to steal the identity of Star Wars Facebook Guy.
The spot where the accident happened now has been upgraded with guard rails to protect those on the other side of the road, and the NSW police are initiating Strike Force Puma as a result of this accident. They are now specifically requesting dashcam footage –
“We need the assistance of the public and we want anyone on the road who witnesses dangerous and menacing driving, such as overtaking several cars across double unbroken lines and narrowly avoiding other vehicles, or has footage of it to contact local police or Crime Stoppers,” Assistant Commissioner Corboy said.
We both have dash cams in our cars though mine is a bit less technically capable than the camera in the other car, which also captures a rear view. We will be submitting footage as requested, if we get any worth sending. We all have to live in this world and drive on these roads and people have to realise there may be consequences for bad behaviour even if they cannot see a police car nearby, as this nearby driver found out recently.