A well-known city businessman whose precious wedding photos were stolen five months ago had his prayers answered when they were finally returned to him this week.
Richie Smith, 52, and his new wife were one of five couples whose photos were taken during a break-in at the home of photographer Jet Stokes last July in which thieves took thousands of euros worth of cameras, laptops and a hard drive.
The photographer appealed for their return “no questions asked” and there was a picture perfect end on Saturday.
“Out of the blue I got a phone call on Friday to be in an industrial estate outside Cork city at 3pm on Saturday,” said Jet, who joked that it was something out of a James Bond movie.
“It was a case of be here at this time.
“I got another phone call at 3pm asking me, ‘are you there yet’ and ‘which car are you in?’ He turned up at the window, gave me the hard drive and that was it,” added Jet.
After the handover and Jet checking that the wedding photographs were safe he contacted the happy couples.
Richie Smith - who ran a tyre business on the Old Cork Road - and his Brazilian bride, Avany Pires Franca, were thrilled with the news, having been absolutely horrified” when they got the bad news last year.
“It’s very emotional for both of us. Avany was looking forward to sending the photos to her family in Brazil.
“She had Brazilian friends and I had people from far and wide. The majority of them are from outside Limerick and some are quite elderly.
“You won’t get a chance of a group photograph of all those people again. We’re in a bad state over it,” said Richie at the time.
When they got the call on Saturday, Richie said his wife, who he met in Lisdoonvarna, couldn’t believe it.
Although the phone call was a sad coincidence as they were returning from the funeral of one of the wedding guests - Joseph Tanner.
“It was tinged with sadness because he was at the wedding,” said Richie, who is looking forward to seeing his late uncle in a group photo.
“The people at the wedding will never be together again, that is why it is so special to get the photos back,” said Richie.
After having to tell Richie and the other couples that their wedding photographs were gone, despite being backed up on three devices, Jet says it was a pleasure to tell them the good news.
He believes the man who returned the goods may have bought them innocently from a third party.
“I think it was somebody who bought it from a criminal and they were squaring their conscience over what they bought.
“He took a risk. I could have turned up with the guards or something. He took a risk because he knew how important it was to somebody,” said Jet, who admitted to being concerned as well when he took the decision to travel to Cork.
“It was too important not to. I took a friend with me and I said to my friend if it looks anyway dodgy we’re leaving,” he said.
Now he is hoping that somebody will get in touch regarding a black Acer laptop belonging to his wife that contains years of research and programmes for children with Down Syndrome.