Devizes author writes about his tough job at notorious travel site
10:00am Sunday 20th October 2013 in Latest News
Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to have luggage lost or stolen on an international flight will be interested in a new book by Devizes author Steve Chart.
Mr Chart, 63, a former detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police who now lives in Lochem Road, spent more than 20 years as a security consultant in South Africa, where he spent most of his upbringing and education.
He was as aware as anyone else in South Africa of the reputation of the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg for pilfering from passengers’ luggage, but when his daughter became a victim he wrote to the Airports Company South Africa, the airport operators, to offer his help.
He didn’t expect a reply but soon found himself signing a four-year contract as their security consultant. A brief survey of the airport baggage facilities quickly revealed a culture of theft and conspiracy among baggage handlers, security officers and even the South African Police.
He had to surmount the fragile egos of middle managers and the apathy of senior management, who considered pilferage a minor irritant and not worth spending good money on. But OR Tambo airport had a major problem on its hands with theft well above the international norm.
This was largely due to the poor pay and working conditions of employees and a lack of supervision.
In his book, 89 Bags and Counting, selling well in South Africa and available at Devizes Books, he describes how thefts were carried out.
The book opens: “He puts the iPod, camera and bottle of perfume to one side, together with the handsome designer-label shoes he has taken from another bag.
“With a deftness developed from opening and closing so many different pieces of luggage, he casually pulls the zip closed before sending the bag on its way to be loaded into the aircraft.”
Later in the book he describes how he discovered a “rat’s nest” of stolen bags – 89 of them – in the conduit above the ceiling in the baggage area of the airport.
Mr Chart, a grandfather of three, said: “If they can get into passengers’ bags that easy, it is only a matter of time before they put something in, like a bomb, and that is my nightmare.”
After he retired from airport security, Mr Chart and his wife Maggie decided to move back to the UK to be closer to their family.
Mr Chart said: “I once visited Devizes on holiday and loved the place.”