Blog: The lock keeper

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Netherlands – ‘The boat thief sees me. He climbs out of the boat and walks away from me. I quicken my pace. The moment the man realizes that the path he has chosen is a dead end, he turns around and starts running in my direction.’

‘If it comes to a collision, I’m going to lose, I think to myself. The man runs towards me at full speed and comes within one meter of me. I take a step to the side, hook his leg and push him into the water. Done, I think. Won! Instead of surrendering, the man quickly swims to the other side of the lock. I hesitate for a moment. Should I jump into the water too? With all that weight on my belt and vest, I immediately sink to the bottom. The man clambers onto the shore on the other side and starts running again.

I shout to my colleague: “Take the car and drive around the lock. Maybe you can catch him.” Once on the other side of the lock, the man has disappeared. His wet footprints on the ground are dissolved by the warm rays of the sun. Many farms and detached houses offer a nice hiding place for our boat thief. A sniffer dog I requested is not available. Coincidentally, there is a helicopter in the area. A few minutes later it circles above our heads, in vain…

The lock keeper had called the police because he saw a black boat entering the lock. He knew that there was only one such black boat in the harbor. The name of the boat had been changed and the skipper was unknown to him. He knew the owner and had called him to ask if he had sold his boat. When he answered negatively, the lock keeper was sure. This boat has been stolen and the skipper is the thief.

The thief was nowhere to be seen and looking for a needle in a haystack was not an option. I decided to pretend we were leaving the local crime scene. The helicopter would continue to monitor the area from a great distance. The bag and its contents, which had been left on the boat, were seized. After waiting a few minutes, the helicopter pilot reported that the man had left his hiding place and started walking. We quickly drove to the specified location after which we were able to arrest the boat thief.

Investigation revealed that there was a camera in the seized bag. Photos of dozens of boats were projected from the SD card onto the screen, including a beautiful house, a big Porsche with a Dutch license plate in a luxurious Italian environment. What turned out?

The man stole boats to order and sailed them to a spot in the canal. From there the boats were shipped to Italy where they were sold. He lived there in luxury. A day before the theft, the man took possession of a boat. When darkness fell, he removed the letters from the boat with turpentine and gave the boat a different name. With sticker letters taken along, the boat was given a “different identity”. As soon as daylight could bear it, he sailed the boat out of the harbor on its way to a new (unsuspecting) owner in Italy. Apparently this had been going well for years.

Many stolen boats could be traced from the photos. The boat thief received 9 months in prison and a claim from the police and the insurance company. All because of an attentive lock keeper.’

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