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How an iPhone stolen in London ended up in China



A brazen robbery on a London street led an Australian expat to discover her phone made it all the way to a warehouse in China – and she’s not the only one. 

Jackie, 30, who is originally from Sydney, was using her phone while walking along a street in Shoreditch, in the eastern London borough of Hackney, when a thief on a motorbike tore past her.

“I was walking home from work, thinking I’d enjoy the nicer weather and a guy on a motorbike snatched it straight out of my hand as I was waiting to cross the road,” she told

Jackie had her phone stolen in London. She later tracked it to Shenzhen, China. (Supplied)

“It was a bit aggressive, but mostly really shocking how fast it happened.

“I couldn’t even work the next morning because I need my phone to log on to my laptop.”

Jackie reported her phone stolen to police but decided to try her luck using Find My iPhone.

To her surprise her phone pinged inside a building at Shenzhen in the Chinese province of Guangdong, about 10,000 kilometres away.

After talking with other expats about the incident she said she discovered she wasn’t the only one to fall victim.

Jackie, 30, who is originally from Sydney, was using her phone while walking along a street in Shoreditch in Hackney. (Supplied)

“Most Aussies I know here have had the same thing happen to them,” she said.

“Apparently it’s a full operation here where they take phones and re-sell them on. Mine’s sitting in a factory in China.”

Of those, 14,953 involved the suspect using a bicycle, motorbike, moped, scooter, e-bike or e-scooter, Met Police said.

Although the total number of Londoners’ phones that do end up in China is unknown, there are multiple accounts from people across the US and Europe who have discovered their phones had turned up in Shenzhen.

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The city, described as the “Silicon Valley of China”, is a bustling hub for black market phones with vendors having little care about where the devices come from, according to a report from ITV.

There are vendors dedicated to phone repairs, refurbishments and even stores that produce “Frankenstein phones”, a phone made using parts from other handsets.

Jackie said she was told by police that it was unlikely they would be able to return her phone to her.

In the 2022 period, of the 90,864 phones stolen only 1915 were recovered, Met Police data shows.

Jackie said she wonders what will become of her phone once it leaves Shenzhen.

“It was just swiped out of my hand. I’ll never have my phone out in public again,” she said.

A Met Police spokesperson told ” We have specialist teams of both uniformed officers and detectives who attend robbery calls quickly, search the area with victims and witnesses for suspects, and help to secure CCTV and forensic evidence to support mobile phone robberies and investigations.”

“We advise everyone to remain vigilant of their surroundings in crowded areas and on the transport network.”

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