The culprit masturbating :(
There's nothing like the feeling that washes over you when you realise you've had something important stolen. It's an unsettling blend of confusion and sorrow that should really only be reserved for the sudden death of a relative or times you watch Gaspar Noé films after a night of weird, powdered psychedelics.
The worst thing about it is that, unless you're the Koch brothers and the stuff that's been pinched is the contents of your safe, it's unlikely that you're ever going to see your stolen belongings again. The police just don't have enough time to follow up every phone that goes missing during 4AM smoking area photo-shoots with complete strangers.
However, technology now exists that allows the common citizen to go from depressed theft victim to amateur sleuth at the swipe of a bank card and click of a button. One such piece of technology is laptop tracking software that shows the location of your missing computer and allows you to remotely view whatever is being looked at on your screen.
After Matt (he wanted to remain anonymous, so let's call him Matt for the purpose of necessity) had his laptop stolen, he contacted the police, who quickly made it clear that they wouldn't be much help – despite the fact he reckons he was spiked before the theft, possibly with scopolamine, the Colombian drug that makes you temporarily catatonic and allows whoever spiked you to control your every movement.
Matt then remembered he'd installed some tracking software on his laptop and took matters into his own hands. What he found when he accessed his laptop was a face (captured by his webcam) that seemed to spend the majority of its time masturbating to a fat fetish porn website. After the police continued to ignore him, Matt set up a blog he called Plumpergeddon (presumably inspired by the fat fetishist) and eventually, out of frustration over the police inaction, began posting the photos he'd captured, videos he'd made of those pictures and the evidence he was gathering about the guy who was now in possession of his stolen computer.
Plumpergeddon has since been picked up by the Sun and a few other media outlets, but no one's taken the time to speak to Matt yet. I got in touch to get the latest on his quest to be reunited with his laptop.
VICE: Can you start of by running over the first bit of the story?
Matt: I was out in Soho one Friday night after work and had a bottle of beer and a couple of pints. Mind you, I can absolutely drink, so I wasn’t expecting to get drunk. That’s pretty much my last memory of the night. The first bit of a foggy memory is the sky getting light on the Saturday morning. I was sat on some street, my backpack was on the ground and it was open. My initial thought was, 'I must have just got completely smashed last night.' I don't really remember getting home, but when I woke up in my bed I realised I had no laptop. A little later, I found my bank card in my pocket, which I thought was odd because I usually keep everything in my wallet.
I marked my laptop as stolen on the website with the tracking software and called the bank to block my card, but they said I'd have to phone back on Monday to make sure no other transactions had been made. When I phoned them on Monday, they were like, “Did you make any big transactions lately?” I got this sinking feeling in my stomach, said that I hadn't and then they started reading off this list of transactions, which is on the blog.
What transactions do you recall?
Two transactions in the Apple store for £500 and £600. Then Armani, Abercrombie and Fitch, Burberry and there were also two department stores. One was House of Fraser, the other was a place called Highlands, and it turned out that someone had spent thousands and thousands in them.
I had no laptop, which meant I had no means of earning money, because I'm freelance. Someone just destroyed me. I was still massively confused about how it happened. Nothing really made much sense; I don’t know anything about card fraud. I was speaking to the woman in charge of card investigation at the Co-op bank and she asked about the ways they could have got my pin, and did I have it written anywhere? I said no, I've had the same pin my whole life, I don’t need to write it down. But they must have got it from me somehow.
There were also two ATM transactions at 12.45AM that night. I tried to piece them together with events since 10PM. I wrote everything down in an email, too, and still thought that maybe I’d fucked up – maybe I’d just got really smashed. But when I started putting the pieces together, I realised that wasn’t really possible.
Is that when you started to track your guy?
That wasn’t for a few weeks. I had some software on the laptop, which meant I could see what he'd been doing on the laptop and access the webcam photos of him. I keep getting these little guilt trips: What if it wasn’t him? But I’ve justified it all in my head, and I thought, 'Even if it wasn’t him, he’s still culpable because you can tell from the login screen alone that the laptop was obviously stolen.' But I’ve got a Google Doc that puts all the evidence together that it was indeed him. He made the second transaction from my card on the laptop about five hours after the robbery.
On the porn site?
Yeah, I watched him using that. I also saw him selling the things he'd bought from Burberry, Abercrombie and Fitch and Apple on eBay. Four weeks in, the program started throwing back loads of photos. I thought it was a case of going to the police, giving them locations from Google maps and the screen shots. I didn’t have his face at this point, but I knew who he was. I had his registration number, three email addresses, three eBay accounts, his ISP and his IP address at specific times. The police should have gone to the ISP with a warrant, got an address, recovered my laptop and arrested him. They didn’t do any of that.
What they did was tell me to come back on Monday and speak to the person in charge. I did that, and I was passed on to see another guy, the next day. From then on, it was next to impossible to get in touch with the officer in charge. He didn’t respond to emails. At this point, I was becoming a little obsessed. Any identifiable info I saw, I was passing on to them. I have chains of emails I sent to the officer to which he didn't bother to respond.
Do you think your drink was spiked?
Yes and the reason for that is that a few days after the incident, I remembered that I hadn’t even taken my laptop to the pub with me. I’d left it at work because I knew there was a chance I was going to get a bit smashed. So at some point, I’d gone back to work, got my bag and then gone to this cash point. I feel that they must have been watching me all night and followed me. Of course, I mentioned that both on the phone to the police and on my police report.
On the blog you have a picture that says, "My laptop, my photos." Would there be some kind of issue of you putting up photos of this guy?
I haven’t really looked into it. A couple of guys I’ve spoken to with legal experience say you shouldn’t do that, but I don’t care. If he wants to take me to court, I’m happy to do that. There’s too much incriminating evidence against him.
What happened next?
Eventually this other guy turned up on the laptop. I haven’t blogged about this yet, but I will. My laptop login screen, which I have screen shots of, had my name as the only other account that wasn’t the guest account he was using. I could see his net curtains, I could see his face, I could see his screen, on which he was doing transactions in Polish. I also saw him having his morning fag at three in the afternoon, sat in his pants watching Penguins of Madagascar in Polish, as well as trying to work out the code to get into my laptop. He worked that out, formatted the laptop, deleted all my data and started afresh.
I went on Google Street View and compared different angles of what I could see out of his window. I worked out which floor of which block of maisonettes he was in. I went up there and the net curtains matched. The window was open, and I was tempted to go in and get it, but I still trusted that the police would do their fucking job.
But you basically did their job for them.
Eventually, the officer in charge told me, they went round two weeks later and they questioned some people in the building. I’d given them photos of this second guy, and I assumed they were looking for him but from an update I got recently, it sounds like they went looking for the guy who’d stolen it. They weren’t even looking for the right guy. They probably spoke to the guy who had my laptop, without realising. I’m planning on starting on the police and their inaction pretty soon, but I’ll see how this article you’re going to do goes first.
Is it the police’s reaction to it that bothers you more than the laptop being stolen?
Not really. The possibility that I was spiked was affecting my psychology massively, but now I'm not nearly as angry, and that's mainly because of the blog. I just need to make sure it doesn’t take over my life.
How does it feel to have such an exclusive look into someone's personal life?
Two people have commented, saying what I'm doing is a bit creepy. But I've had dozens, maybe hundreds, of overwhelmingly positive messages. When I look back on this in 20 years' time, rather than the black clouds I've had for the past 18 months, I’ll just have this hilarious insight into the life of a prolific wanker.
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamie_clifton
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