Charlie’s, an “indie” bar in Melbourne’s South West reported a series of break-ins to their insurer, and our client, Munich Sterling Insurance. The incidents were reported to the police and, with the bar having several CCTV cameras installed, everyone came up short when trying to gauge who the culprit was and how, exactly, the bar was being targeted.
Over the course of four months, Charlie’s was broken into on three occasions, and in each, all of the locks to the building were in tact and, despite the security cameras facing all entrances and there being three on the inside facing the bar, lounge area and kitchen, none were able to capture any footage of anyone entering the building after hours.
The owner, Charlie Brandon, reported that at least $8,000 worth of stock, in the form of top-shelf spirits, bottles of imported wine and expensive champagne, was stolen in the first incident, around $5,000 in the second and a similar figure in the third. Due to the nature of the case and with little understanding of what had actually happened, Munich Sterling Insurance paid out on the first break-in, following which they had asked Mr Brandon to have a new security system installed, considering their initial investigations clarified that all alarms, sirens and back-to-base monitoring were functioning as they should, yet somehow managed to miss the action.
In the second incident, the internal CCTV cameras managed to catch a person dressed all in black, crawl along the floor, against the wall, to the bar before standing up to lift nearly every bottle from the shelves, and crawling with them, two by two, back to an area out of view of the cameras. Again, the locks to the building and cameras on the outside showed no signs of a break-in. Despite Mr Brandon having not updated his security systems, the evidence of film was sufficient to warrant another payout from our client.
The third incident was alarmingly similar to the first, with there being no evidence, whatsoever, to warrant the fact that a break-in had occurred, other than the fact that the bar’s stockroom had been cleaned out. Munich Sterling Insurance, at this point, suspected foul play from the owners and held off on the payout until their own investigations were able to clarify what had happened.
After combing through the case data, we found a similar pattern starting to emerge between the incidents: all three of the break-ins occurred within the first four days of the month. Munch Sterling Insurance then made an enquiry with the manager of the bar, Steven Wells, as to when new stock was ordered and delivered, the answer to which was, “usually we order new stock when things are running low, so I can’t give you an exact date, but for the consumables that tend to run out quickly we tend to reorder stock at the start of every month, and have it delivered within two-to-three days.”
This set some alarm bells ringing for Munich as the incidents seemed to coincide with Charlie’s restocking timeframes. As such, over the next three months, for 7 days at the start of each, Munich asked Precise Investigation to station an operative at the site, in an attempt to determine whether any more “break-ins” would occur, and if so, what exactly had been taking place.
The first month gave us nothing and, luckily for the bar, there were no reports of any break-ins either. However, during the second month, our operative made a note that four of the bar staff were turning up to work with seemingly empty backpacks, when the month before they had not. At the end of their shifts, the staff would leave and their backpacks would appear to be full and heavy. This continued for three days, before Munich Sterling Insurance received another report of the bar having suffered a break-in. After confirming with the operative, who was still at the site, that there had been no activity around the premises that night, Munich asked us to follow any of the staff members who were seen leaving with a backpack.
The following day, all of those staff members were no longer wielding backpacks, yet taking our previous footage into account, we could identify who, exactly, had the days before. As such, after his shift, our operative tracked one of the staff members to his home and went on to note and record his observations.
From the outside of the apartment, everything seemed normal but considering this man lived on one of the higher floors there was no way to get a view of the inside without actually being there. So, our agent asked Precise’s dedicated support team to cross-reference the address with the registered staff’s details that Munich had sent over a few months earlier. With that, we were able to see that Mr James Pilkinton was listed as living in flat 34 of the building.
Our operative returned to base for a quick change of clothing and to fit a button cam to his outfit.
From there, he turned to the apartment block and scoured the outdoor mailboxes for any with a name, finding one written in permanent marker on a piece of paper, stuck to box number 26. He buzzed in and told the tenant that he had a parcel to deliver that was too large for the box and required a signature, which thankfully the tenant believed.
After entering the building, our operative made his was to Mr Pilkinton’s flat and knocked on the door. James answered and our man introduced himself as a plumber hired by the flat below to investigate a leak that appeared to be coming from their ceiling and asked if he could quickly take a look under the kitchen sink and inspect the bathroom plumbing for a few minutes. James, a seemingly nice guy, let him in. With the button cam running, our agent stepped inside and immediately noticed a solid 15-20 bottles of spirits on the living room table, which he joked about, asking James if he was throwing a party – James laughed forcibly and agreed that that was indeed the case. Our operative then went on to pretend to inspect the plumbing, following which he told James that his neighbour’s leak must be coming from somewhere else.
We left the scene and immediately sent the footage across to Munich Sterling, who subsequently informed Charlie that they would not be paying out on their latest incident and, furthermore, requested that the previous payments be returned, in full, failing which they would press charges against him for making fraudulent claims.
Charlie managed to repay our client, following which their agreement was terminated.
Precise Investigation works alongside a host of insurers, corporates of all scales and domestic clients alike and, in each case, we provide only the most relevant, professional and discrete of services. Given the nature of this case, our operative was able to use his wits to gather the evidence our client needed, but in some cases where evidence needs to be admissible in a court of law, Precise Investigation ensures that our operatives and dedicated support team work hard to gather it through the most lawful of means only – we approach each case and its requirements based on the needs of our clients and the outcomes they have in mind.
Should you require evidence for a particular case at work, on the move or even at home, whether it involves co-workers, business partners, clients or even lovers, Precise Investigation is sure to get the results you’re after.
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Please note: All names, locations and identifying characteristics described in this article have been changed to protect those involved.