Photographer Goes Into Detective Mode to Get Back His Stolen Tripod

When British photographer Mike Lane’s car was stolen in October, he also lost a good amount of gear that was inside. Not long after, Lane spotted his tripod — one item stolen from his car — for sale on eBay. This is where his journey really begins.

Lane quickly sprung into action doing the sensible thing: he Googled what to do. This led him to his local police department where he initially filed a report after his car was stolen. He showed an image of the tripod from before it was taken and compared it with the listing showing it had to be the same. Lane’s tripod was outfitted specifically, so he was positive it was the same as the one on eBay. The police took the number of the eBay listing down as well as the name attached to the seller’s profile and added the information to the report. But Lane had an important question: should he purchase the stolen tripod?

An image of Lane's tripod labeled with its specific parts.

The officer told him that since it may be a while before they respond, then yes, it would help ensure he actually gets the equipment back. So he did just that, putting up his own money which he hoped to eventually get back.

The situation picked up again once the tripod arrived. Lane confirmed it was his, but took things a step further. He looked at the address on the package, which was for a location about 10 miles away, and decided to pay it a visit. The trip was a bit uneventful as the woman working at the shop said it was only the accounts department and didn’t have anything to do with sales. With no further information gleaned, Lane left. But, before heading out, he noticed the sign above the storefront with the name “Cash Converters.”

Cash Converters is a chain where people can buy and sell second-hand goods or pawn items. Lane was encouraged by the website’s language that ensured it is against the buying and selling of stolen goods and its willingness to take a financial loss to reimburse buyers for such items. Propelled by this, he sent an email to the company about his situation.

However, he found the language the company used to be more forceful than the actual actions taken. Cash Converters urged him to work with eBay, which Lane already expected to be less than helpful based on his earlier research. That turned out to be the case when the eBay employee he spoke with wasn’t sure what to do next, despite their seeming eagerness to help.

Another wrinkle appeared when, before receiving an email response from Cash Converters, he decided to stop by the branch where the package was sent from, according to the tracking info. In addition to any further information, Lane wanted to see if he could spot any more of his stolen items at the shop. He didn’t, but the manager told Lane he recently learned that the tripod sold was stolen. Lane asked if the person brought in any more of his gear, but the manager said he couldn’t give that information out freely.

So, Lane turned back to the police department to see how his case was being followed up on. It seemed that, despite it being a month later, things were stalled, waiting for an officer to be assigned the case. Lane then turned to his Member of Parliament, who emailed the police and not long after, someone was assigned. Lane wasn’t sure if the timing was coincidental or if the MP’s email moved things along, but he was happy for the progress all the same.

Photographer Mike Lane holds up his returned tripod outdoors.

Things were finally coming together, but Lane still had one last thing to do. The police told him that, in order to get his money back, the photographer would have to return the tripod to Cash Converters to get a refund. The police would then collect the stolen goods from the business and bring it back to him. That’s exactly what he did. And so, just over another two weeks later, refund already in hand, Lane got his tripod back from the police.

It was a long odyssey for Lane to get back his property and it wasn’t even the only item he had stolen. While Lane says there were luckily no cameras or lenses in the car, there was plenty of other gear lost alongside the tripod. Lane isn’t the first or only to have gear stolen, and it’s astonishing just how much legwork it took on his side to get even a single item back. Still, Lane keeps a sense of humor, joking at the end of his video about his new “security” dog system.

PetaPixel has reached out to Lane to see if he was able to get any of his other stolen items or car back and will update this story if he responds.

Image credits: Mike Lane, YouTube