Image copyright Lyndsey Verner Image caption Donovan said the stolen vehicle was tracked to Halifax via Google Streetview
A would-be thief targeting a car similar to Kevin Donovan’s was eventually arrested by Canadian authorities – because his got tracked using Google Streetview.
Two days before it disappeared from Canada, it was seen on CCTV in the parking lot of Halifax’s international airport.
The next day, Canadian authorities say, the same car was seen on Google Maps at the entrance to a dock close to the runway, ready to be smuggled into North Africa or Iraq.
For Kevin Donovan, it was a case of doing “the right thing”.
The Toronto lawyer recently bought a used Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV from a car rental company. A thief apparently broke into his car and stole a Toyota truck from the driveway just five days later.
When the Crown prosecutor asked Mr Donovan if he suspected the Trailblazer had been taken, he said he didn’t know.
He decided to install GPS tracking devices on it.
“My goal was to become a fugitive hunter,” he told the CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster.
Image copyright Leslie Verner Image caption Donovan installed GPS tracking devices on his car but nobody saw the culprit
But two days after it was set up, Kevin Donovan’s car went missing. It was spotted by a camera at the airport, and he was shocked.
“It was in the same parking lot as my rental car,” he said.
“That phone call (from the rental company) was like a lightning bolt. At that point, I’m thinking, we’ve got to go find the car. We have to find it.”
He immediately did a Google search and found the car’s GPS coordinates.
“Everything came back very quickly,” he told the CBC.
“The response was almost instantaneous. Almost in a matter of seconds, we got back a resolution of where the car was in a global fashion, where it was now.”
Kevin Donovan went to the dealership where he had bought the car. He pointed out the location of the GPS, told them it was the wrong car, and got them to bring it back.
Once he knew the location, he contacted the police, as well as his local MP. His MP, Claude Gravelle, put him in touch with Interpol.
Image copyright CBC Image caption Donovan made a Canadian police search for the stolen car public, and alerted Interpol
Interpol went to the airport and allegedly found the car at the dock entrance.
It had been spotted on Google Maps by anyone passing through Halifax, North America’s second-busiest airport, on its way to a port in the Middle East.
“This is what we call a snowball effect,” said Mr Donovan.
Video caption I don’t know if Kevin Donovan will ever get his car back
“Our one-time theft led to multiple regional and international investigations,” police spokeswoman Tara Spackman told the CBC.
“This case came to the attention of a cross-border policing team, which consequently led to the arrest of individuals.”
She said the arrest took place last month, before the road map showed up online.
Kevin Donovan was never found. A year-long investigation into the stolen car ended on Monday when police said their files had been closed.
Both the detective and Kevin Donovan seemed keen on finding the car and getting it back to him.
“This could happen to anyone,” Kevin Donovan said.
“I just want it back. I don’t care if it ends up in my living room or a tavern.”