Dean Parnell, a lawyer from Sydney Mitchell and the former president of Birmingham Law Society, shares the story of his Find My iPhone success. The Apple service came to the rescue by enabling him to track down his stolen iPad when police help was unavailable. (See also: How to trace a stolen MacBook: use Find My Mac to find stolen MacBook.)

Parnell's iPad was stolen from a bar in Birmingham. The bar was unable to identify the thief using CCTV, so Parnell went straight to an Apple Store for advice. There, Parnell was shown how to use Find My iPhone to track down his iPad, which was now heading towards Water Orton on a train.

"The Apple staff were very friendly and helpful and allowed me to stay on their premises until 8.15pm, 15 minutes after they officially shut the store," Parnell told us when we spoke to him about the incident.

Now that Parnell had located his iPad, which is worth £500, he called the police, who told him that someone would be along shortly to investigate. However, no one from the police arrived, and they didn't return Parnell's calls, even when he went to the police station to ask for help directly.

Image credit: Dean Parnell

"I was told that someone would call me back the next day," Parnell told us. "I explained that the battery on my iPad may have discharged by then and if this happened I would lose the signal. The police said they couldn't help me that night, so I told them that I planned to go to the property where my iPad had been taken without police assistance, and that there was a greater chance of there being an accident, but again they said they could not help."

That same evening, after knocking on several doors close to the location that he had tracked, Parnell called the police to tell them that one person had refused to answer and that they were a bit suspicious, but the police then identified the man as an elderly person who had been in the house all day. 

With the police still on the phone, Parnell knocked on the final door in the area, at around 10.30pm. While knocking, the police told Parnell that the Apple location system is inaccurate, and that they had always struggled to retrieve items through the service. However, when the door opened, Parnell instantly recognised the man from the pub that he had been in when the iPad was taken.

"He was a little shocked and asked how I had found him," Parnell told us. "I asked for my iPad to be returned and he immediately handed it over to me, explaining that he was planning to speak to Apple the next day to see if they could assist him with finding its rightful owner."

"The whole event took some four hours from beginning to end, and had it not been for my persistence my iPad would have ended up as another statistic," Parnell added. "My iPad contains lots of personal information and while it was backed up on iTunes, that is not the point. Someone had my property and I knew roughly where they were so I felt I had no choice but to reclaim my property."

While Parnell's story concludes happily, we wouldn't advise persuing a theif alone! Parnell told us that he hopes that, by sharing his story, others who find themselves in a similar situation might be treated differently by the police.

Parnell is not the only iOS device owner who has managed to retrieve their lost possessions using Apple's Find My iPhone service.

In January, we reported that two lost iPhones had been recovered in unusual ways thanks to Find My iPhone, with one man posing as a woman on an online dating site to lure a thief, and another filming his violent encounter with the person who stole his iPhone after managing to track him down.

This last example, however, highlights the dangers of using Find My iPhone to confront potential thieves.

In addition, a man who tracked down his stolen iPad using Find My iPhone and a GPS device last year has been accused of unlawful amateur sleuthing, by committing "trespass via radio wave" when had activated an alarm on the device.

Have you ever used Find My iPhone? Share your stories with us in the comments section below or on Twitter.

See also:

How to track a lost computer with Find My Mac

Find My Car: Bond-esque Apple patent allows car to be controlled with iPhone