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Thief Uses Google Earth To Nick Lead Roofs

In an incident which further sparked concerns over the misuse of Google Earth application for felonious purposes, a thief stole lead worth a whopping £100,000 from the roofs of the buildings, by using the application to get the detailed view of these listed buildings.

Tom Berge, a 27-year-old builder from Sutton, used the Google Earth application, which offers detailed aerial images of places across the globe, to search out various listed buildings, including churches, schools, and museums, that could be ransacked for lead.

Berge used the application to figure out lead roofs with their darker colours, and made £44,500 by selling around 44.6-tonnes of lead during his six months long spree, which started from September to February.

The roofs of Sutton High School for Girls, Croydon Parish Church, and Honeywood Museum in Carshalton were all looted. Berge is sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for a couple of years, after he confessed involvement in as many as 30 offences.

The court was told that Berge, along with his accomplices, meticulously planned the thefts, as he went to site equipped with the necessary equipment, such as ladders and abseiling ropes, to plunder the roofs, and even stole a car to make a speedy escape.

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Our Comments

Aside from the fact that the judgement highlights the legal loopholes that exist in the current UK system, it also shows that thieves, like any professionals, can be resourceful. Google Earth is a tool and while the incident highlighted one wrong use, it has an overwhelmingly good aura with its pedagogical and didactic features.

Related Links

Thief Googled £100,000 lead roofs (opens in new tab)

(The Independent)

Googling for crime (opens in new tab)

(The Sun)

Sutton roofer who used Google Earth for lead theft escapes jail term (opens in new tab)

(Your Local Guardian)

Google Earth used by thief to pinpoint buildings with valuable lead roofs (opens in new tab)


Surprise! Google Earth used for robbery (opens in new tab)


Earth's most roofless man (opens in new tab)


Désiré Athow
Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.