Up yer bum, arseholes.
Literally, as in colonoscopy — examining the anal canal with a slim fiber-optic instrument. An unpleasant procedure but life-saver in detecting disease and abnormalities.
So, best case scenario, the colonoscopes that were snatched from Toronto Western Hospital by a trio of perps will eventually be put to their proper use, perhaps in a Third World country. But still, a daring break-and-enter of a locked-up department, the likes of which has never been seen before.
“First time ever,” admits Det. Darren Worth, who’s leading the investigation.
Now, ingenious robbers have scooped all manner of goods in the past, including items that would seem to have been effectively nailed down. Some 30 cast-iron manhole covers, for instance, that disappeared in Los Angeles about a decade ago — part of an apparent worldwide manhole larceny plague, presumably for resale as scrap metal or to recycling companies.
But the annals of weird robberies also turn up a purloined penguin, a Sea World shark, a woman’s front lawn, a 350-pound inflatable gorilla from a car dealership and an entire steel bridge in the Czech Republic. Not a quickie caper, that.
Hospitals are most commonly the target of drug theft, smash ’n‘ grab forays by the desperate and the ham-fisted, turned around quickly on the street. But sophisticated medical equipment? Not like they’re the most convenient hot goods to fence by a thief either. “Usually stuff that’s stolen is something you can use yourself or can be easily sold,” says Worth. “I’m only speculating but these are not items that you would sell on the street or at a pawn shop. This doesn’t seem like stuff you can sell quickly unless you had someone potentially waiting for it, somewhere.
“These would be items that would be strictly sold to a doctor or a medical facility. Whether that would be in Canada or if this is going overseas, I don’t know. That would be my guess.”
A total of 26 scopes used for colonoscopies and endoscopies — examination of the digestive tract — along with light sources and video processors, estimated value $1.2 million, were detached, dismantled and packed up by three men last weekend, stuffed into a pair of wheelie suitcases and backpacks, then coolly humped out of the building with nobody the wiser until staff reported for work Monday morning.
“Going through the hospital, they would have just looked like normal patients or visitors, nothing untoward,” says Worth. “Walking out with a suitcase, it would look like you were picking up your mom or something or moving somebody in. It’s not like hospital security wants visitors.”
Actually, the suspects made two trips, loading up a silver Honda Odyssey minivan in which they made their escape.
“They went through a couple of locked doors and metal gates,” says Gillian Howard, spokesperson for University Health Network. “They obviously came prepared to break through both of those things.
“We’re as puzzled about this as anybody else.”
Generally, use of the equipment requires more expertise than possessed by hospital technicians — gastroenterologists and internal medicine doctors probing patients at both ends, carefully manoeuvring down the throat and up the anus.
The inconvenience to patients is being managed, with the hospital’s equipment supplier making “loaners” available. Insurance covers the loss and the equipment will soon be replaced.
“It’s just so disheartening,” says Howard.
The hospital has security cameras, quite visible. The robbers made little attempt to hide their faces.
“One guy has his face concealed with a scarf or something when they get there but not when leaving,” notes Worth, who’s released still images from the video tapes. “They’re looking down, for the most part. But 100 per cent they knew they were going to be captured on video cameras.”
That’s the best police have to go on, at the moment. “Right now we’re just combing through video,” says Worth. “We’re really hoping for tips. These are not homeless people. Somebody knows who they are. I’m hoping that someone will recognize the suspects or the vehicle. It’s information we need.”
Given their clear awareness of where to go and that the department would not be staffed on the weekend, the obvious inference is that the thieves were abetted by someone on the inside.
“I’m not saying that it’s an inside job,” says Worth, “but based on the evidence I have so far, it didn’t look like they were randomly searching for whatever they could find. They specifically went to a specific location.”
Howard takes slim solace in the likelihood that the stolen equipment will help people, somewhere, if sold on the black market.
“All of us are in disbelief. It’s just so disheartening.”