WHEN his car was stolen and found torched behind an office block, he believed the beloved BMX he left on its back seat had also gone up in smoke.
But when police told Forbes Howie that the bike was not among the charred wreckage, the nightclub worker immediately knew what to do.
Earlier this year, it was his appeal on Facebook which allowed a friend’s stolen bike to be traced within days, so he tried the same trick again.
The 25-year-old posted photos of his burnt-out car alongside images of his £1000 bike on the social networking site on Monday morning and this time had only hours to wait for a result. That afternoon, the brazen thief had walked into a second-hand bike shop in Tollcross and tried to sell the BMX.
However, the owner had seen the Facebook appeal and snatched the bike from the suspect who fled empty-handed.
Police said no-one had been arrested over the incident.
Mr Howie’s Volkswagen Polo had been stolen from Alba Street after he parked it to go to work as supervisor of the new Castle Club nightspot in Queensferry Street Lane.
He said: “I was working in the club when I got a call from a police officer at 2am on the Saturday saying my car had been stolen and set on fire. Firefighters had put it out in a cul-de-sac next to the Cargo nightclub. I was really confused. It was so weird to think that could happen. Then I remembered I had left my BMX in the back because I had been riding it that day. I asked the officer if the bike was there and she said she didn’t think so.
“I’ve been riding BMXs since I was about 15. I was annoyed to lose the car but the bike had more sentimental value. I went to the impound yard where the car had been taken and took photos of it. On Monday morning I put them on Facebook along with photos of my bike.”
In February, a £1000 BMX belonging to French semi-pro rider Victor Ory was stolen from outside his Bellevue flat. But a Facebook appeal by Mr Howie tracked down the bike after a cycling fan spotted it being ridden by a teenager in Bristo Square. Mr Howie, who lives in Castle Avenue, Corstorphine, was contacted at 3pm on Monday by the owner of Soul Cycles in Brougham Place. He said: “The owner, whom I knew, said he had seen my Facebook message. A short time later, a guy in his mid to late-20s came in with the bike to sell it. The owner pretended he was interested then grabbed the bike and said he was calling the police.”
However, despite being reunited with his prized BMX, it is not all good news as Mr Howie faces a £310 charge from the impound yard which removed his wrecked car. “It looks like I’ll have to pay the £310 on a 20-year-old car I bought for £500 that’s completely destroyed.”
MODERN CRIME-FIGHTING TOOL
SOCIAL networks have been turned into crime-fighting tools a few times in the Lothians.
In March, a teenager used Facebook to track down a yob who stole his phone and punched him in the face in Musselburgh. A friend of the victim who witnessed the assault knew the thief’s name and found out where he lived on Facebook.
Craig Bolland, 17, was later jailed for four months.
Keen biker Donald Pyper harnessed the power of Facebook and Twitter after his Harley Davidson was stolen in August.
The data analyst uploaded pictures of the bike while tweets were sent out. It was eventually spotted abandoned in the West Pilton and Silverknowes area.
In February, sex attacker Stuart Sinclair, 17, who pounced on a 14-year-old boy, was caught after confessing to his victim on Facebook.