October 26, 2011
I, Mike Russon and my new wife Maureen Boshoff (Russon), both managing directors of a group of companies in South Africa, arrived at the International airport in Rome on the 18th October 2011 at 13h00. We were on our way to the Maldives to enjoy our long awaited honeymoon as newlyweds.
We were checking in at business class, flying Emirates to Dubai and then straight to Male for the Maldives, when our planned honeymoon came to a disappointed abrupt ending.
Upon check in after much deliberation of luggage allowances per bag item, we were given our boarding passes for flight number EK 098. We had a small black leather travel pouch which contained our passports, our accommodation travel voucher documents, and ten thousand dollars in cash – our entire honeymoon money for a week in Maldives and a few days in Dubai, before flying back home to Cape Town, South Africa.
When we passed through security with our boarding passes in hand, we had accidentally left the travel pouch containing the transit tickets, both our passports, the ten thousand dollars in cash, along with the accommodation travel vouchers in the trolley basket. Once through security I saw a trolley porter remove our trolley immediately, as one has to pay €2 to use them - they don’t want other people just taking them and using for free. And yes, I know they are just doing their job the airport has employed them to do.
I immediately realised the travel pouch was still in the basket of the trolley, and went straight back through security. I saw all the trolleys packed together by the same person who had taken our trolley. This time he was accompanied by another trolley porter. I asked them if they saw my travel pouch which I had left in the trolley, but they just shook their heads. After much sign language to explain the situation to them, they then said no. But then, I saw the trolleys they had and my accommodation travel voucher was in one trolley, but no travel pouch. Then they looked worried as I said this is mine and asked where the travel pouch was, to which I got no response.
My wife immediately went to the criminal police office at the airport and after we both pointed out the cameras above where it all happened, and said that we know the people working at the airport took it out the trolley, the police were just not interested. We pleaded again to ask them to check the cameras, but they still refused saying there is a process and it will take a few days. Not once had they asked where it happened, which camera it was, or took down our details. In other words, it appears it was too much bother for them to investigate further.
This meant us having to forfeit our international flight and be told that without proper documentation (passport), we cannot continue to go on honeymoon to the Maldives, as they won’t accept an emergency travel document or temporary passport at Male airport. We were told to book straight back home to South Africa.
My wife and I checked all the dustbins at the airport, lost and found information desk who also said police won’t help as the problem is not important to them, but to no avail. We had to stay overnight in a hotel at our own cost, and try and get the next flight out the following day.
The policeman at the criminal police at the airport’s name is,Agenti di P.G Sov .Guiliani Atonio ed ass.c filippino paola. (Not sure the spelling is correct). We have since learnt that he even filled in his police report wrong, as one comment was he did not specify that we said who the person was we had suspected as the one who took our pouch. I believe this enables him not to investigate.
The South African Embassy in Rome proved to be excellent when it came to providing a world class service. They helped us after hours to obtain our temporary passports. Jacqueline Mpongoshe, Livy Lesufi and Lebongane Mahlako, who helped us at the embassy, were true lifesavers – we truly felt proudly South African at this point!
I have written this letter and sent it to you in the hope that it will be printed, thereby encouraging the airport police to check the cameras on that day to see who the people were who had taken our trolley and stolen our passports and money. Our aim is to inform other travellers to be alert and aware of their surroundings when passing through airports, especially international airports. I would not like to see another person in the same situation my wife and I were in.