Smile, you're on bandit camera

Snapped: A family in Sandringham was sleeping when their house was broken into at night on Monday morning. Thanks to a smartphone app called "iCaughtU", the phone captured an image of the alleged offender. Picture: Jane Dyson.
Snapped: A family in Sandringham was sleeping when their house was broken into at night on Monday morning. Thanks to a smartphone app called "iCaughtU", the phone captured an image of the alleged offender. Picture: Jane Dyson.

WHEN Sandringham teenager Daniel, 15, downloaded an app, he did not think it would one day give police a handy lead in helping to solve a crime.

But last week, his smartphone captured the suspected thief who broke into his family home.

As Daniel slept downstairs, a stranger snuck into his bedroom and stole the phone.

The thief also nabbed about $10,000 in cash and goods including vouchers, tobacco and alcohol.

He broke in by sliding out glass panels in the bathroom window.

Little did the thief know that what he left behind was a snapshot of his face.

The picture was taken through the iCaughtU Pro app ($2.50) which takes a silent picture when someone enters a wrong passcode.

The app instantly emails the picture to the user's account, showing the location of where it was taken. When Daniel logged into his email account the next morning, he saw one big clue staring back at him.

"I was pretty surprised," he said. "The picture was taken at 4.48am, with a link to our address on Google maps.

"It felt weird that someone was in the house."

The schoolboy set the code so that the picture takes a snap at the first incorrect attempt to unlock it.

"I thought it wouldn't be a clear picture because it was at night and it doesn't flash but I think he was in his car when he did it because it showed that he drove around the corner," he said.

"I was just looking through security measures for my phone; the police were shocked that I had the picture."

Daniel's mother Sajida slept through the break-in.

"We didn't hear anything, and we're not heavy sleepers at all," Sajida said.

"I saw my wardrobe was open in the morning, with drawers and documents scattered on the floor.

"It's frightening to know that someone was just above my head."

The alarm was off and their home's security camera only captured movement from the front of the house which has open access to a public beach.

She said other residents recently reported several break-ins in the area.

"It's a quiet and safe neighbourhood, so we don't use the alarm," Sajida said.

"But our neighbours said people at Dolls Point were disturbed on the same night when they saw flashing lights.

"The police told us there were a few break-ins at Sans Souci last week and I saw a couple of handbags that had been thrown outside.

"It makes you feel more comfortable knowing we were not targeted.

"We'll all get the app now, it's brilliant."

St George crime manager Paul Simpkins said police were investigating "a couple of suspects".

"We're looking at a group of three people but we still have to identify the person in the picture," he said.

"The problem is that the picture looks like three different people."

He said the app was useful in helping police track down suspects.

"The app is fantastic, whether it's that one or the Find My Phone app, it can certainly assist us in our investigations," he said.

"Because of these advances in technology, there have been other situations where we have had photos produced to us."

He said that although the investigation was ongoing, it was possible the break-in was related to other recent home invasions in the area.

"These matters are being treated individually but we're looking at particular similarities that may indicate the crimes may be connected," he said. "There is nothing to confirm they are linked but we have to keep our options open."

Crimestoppers: 1800 333 000

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