As It Happens

B.C. elementary school teacher finds thief in Tim Hortons and scolds him

When an elementary school teacher from Salmon Arm, B.C. discovered that she had been robbed, she went looking for the thief. She found him sitting in a local Tim Hortons. When she ordered him to return her belongings, he obliged.
Elementary teacher Rebekah O'Hanley found the young man who robbed her at this Tim Hortons in Salmon Arm, B.C. (Left: Google Maps, Right: Rebekah O'Hanley)

When an elementary school teacher in Salmon Arm, B.C. discovered that she had been robbed, she went looking for the thief. She found him sitting in a local Tim Hortons. When she ordered him to return her belongings, he obliged. 

"I felt like I was scolding a Grade 2 student who had done something really bad," Rebekah O'Hanley tells As it Happens guest host Helen Mann. "I had my teacher voice on."

The incident occurred on Nov. 24. After leaving an appointment, O'Hanley looked into her car and realized that she had been robbed. Her wallet and cellphone were gone.

"Everything in my car was thrown all around. My seat was pushed back. My dash was opened."

O'Hanley immediately called the police. Then, she went to the bank to get a new card.

"I started kind of crying in there. This guy came over and said, 'Here, I want you to have this.' I looked at it and it was money … He gave me $40," she says.

After this encounter, O'Hanley decided to drive around town to see if she could find the thief. She says something "just drew [her] to Tim Hortons."

I look and he has all my stuff laid out in front of him. I just went for it. I said, 'That's my stuff.'- Rebekah O'Hanley

At Tim Hortons, O'Hanley saw a young man sitting in the corner who matched a witness description. When she approached him, she saw her belongings on the table, including her disassembled cellphone.  

"I look and he has all my stuff laid out in front of him. I just went for it. I said, 'That's my stuff.'"

At first, O'Hanley scolded the thief. Then, she did something unexpected: she hugged him.

"I think, looking back, I just wanted him to trust me in that moment."

The thief returned O'Hanley's cards and cell phone, even apologizing for stealing her things. The pair left the Tim Hortons together.

"I started walking to my car and he said, 'I'm really sorry.' And, I said, 'Thank you.' And he was like, 'Don't say thank you.'"

O'Hanley says the way her parents raised her influenced the way she dealt with the situation.

"They always kind of took in people who didn't have a great life going on. I'm not afraid of people."

*Kudos to O'Hanley's brother Gabe who sent us an email saying we should cover the story. The subject line in his email? It read "My Sister the Thief Hugger."

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