This could have been a classic case of an unmindful individual losing his photography gear. Except, in this case the individual is a seasoned professional with years of experience and completely aware of the dangers when traveling with his gear. It is always recommended when traveling in places that are unfamiliar to you, you should keep your valuables close to you. Even chained to you if you can. In this case News Corp photographer Brett Costello learned the lesson in a bitter way.

Photographer Brett Costello robbed in Rio

News Corp photographer Brett Costello detailing his ordeal

Even before the first firework went off and even before the cauldron was lit, Costello found out that he has been severely handicapped. Somebody stole his camera bag. A group of three thieves, possibly more, working in tandem robbed him off his camera trolley, filled with $40K worth of gear.

It took the thieves just about 10 seconds to rob him. Costello and a few colleagues walked into a café on the Ipanema beach to grab a coffee. He was ordering his coffee at the counter when he was approached by young woman for help. It was just to distract him. While he was speaking with the woman, with his back turned away from his bag, one of her accomplices walked into the café, picked up the bag and left. So brazen were the thieves that the man came back for a second attempt after aborting the first one.

Photographer robbed off his gear in Rio

Two members of the gang seen here walking up to the café

The whole incident was caught in the CCTV camera installed inside the café. The thieves had already scouted the place before sending the woman in. They were tagging Costello for a while and knew what was inside the trolley he was lugging.

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The young woman walks in to distract Costello

Costello turned around and to his horror found his ThinkTank with all his gear missing. He sprinted outside to locate the thief. The second accomplice directed him towards the opposite direction to which the first accomplice ran to. With Costello sprinting towards the wrong direction, the young woman and the second accomplice coolly walked out the front door. The bag had already disappeared having been transported in a getaway car.

One could see in the CCTV footage a gutted Costello with his arms on his head having realized that he had just been duped, big time.

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A gutted Costello seen in the footage realising he has just been robbed

But there’s a late twist in this whole episode. Having lost all hopes of ever retrieving his gear Costello had a stroke of luck. He discovered one of the accomplices trying to enter a stadium. Surely he was, because he was wearing one Costello’s official Rio 2016 Olympics Photographer’s jacket! The same one Costello lost at that café heist.

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Gotcha! Costello and officials at the Sambodromo stadium challenges a man wearing Costello’s official photographers jacket

When challenged, the man said that he picked it up form a street seller. Not convincing as to how an official jacket, meant for photographers covering the event, could end up with a street vendor anyway. Costello spoke with the police, showed the CCTV footage and was able to convince that this was his jacket and that the man was somehow linked with the whole incident. The man was taken into custody for questioning following Costello’s complaint.

There is still no word on whether the rest of Brett Costello’s stolen gear could be recovered. This is one more example of how photographers, both seasoned professionals and amateurs often lose their gear when travelling. You have to be extra careful. This cannot be overemphasized.

Rajib Mukherjee

Rajib Mukherjee

Rajib’s love for the road is second only to his love for photography. Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly. He has been writing for over 6 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favourite pursuits.
Rajib Mukherjee