Police are investigating the bizarre disappearance of a laptop at a major bridge tournament in the Isle of Man.
The 47th Isle of Man Bridge Congress was held for the first time at the Palace Hotel in Douglas over three days last week.
The event was disrupted when the computer that ran the scoring system was switched for another.
There were 16 tables of four players with 47 of the entrants having travelled from the UK for the event.
Play in the Shearwater suite could have been brought to an early halt on Saturday when UK-based tournament director John Pyner discovered his laptop containing the scoring program had been switched.
Mr Pyner said: ‘It has been customary to use computers to score bridge tournaments for the last 30 years or so.
‘There have been several instances of computers being stolen from bridge tournaments in the UK so it is the practice to leave them somewhere secure when the playing room is unoccupied.
‘On Saturday I left it with reception during the dinner break and collected it on my return.
‘I went directly to the Shearwater suite, took the computer from its carry-case, set it down on the table and plugged it into the mains. Once play began I switched the computer on and found to my astonishment it did not power up at all.
‘On closer examination I then realised this was not my computer; mine was a Dell Inspiron, the switched computer was a Dell Latitude. Maggie, my wife, immediately recognised it as not being the original. The operating system appeared to have been wiped off it.’
John immediately reported what had happened to reception. Police were called and CCTV footage was checked but revealed nothing untoward.
He said: ‘We tried to work out when the switch could have taken place, as it was certainly my computer that went to reception and the carry-case I collected from reception was also mine, as it contained a book that had been there all the time.
‘All we could think was that somebody had come into the Shearwater while I was away from the table with my back turned, and effected the switch then, but there were some bridge players in the room at the time so the culprit must have been lightning-fast to do what he or she did.’
He added: ‘I have run bridge tournaments for 30 years or more, and of the 64 players that evening I can say that I know probably upwards of 50 of them from previous tournaments and would trust them all. In any case I find it inconceivable that a bridge player would wish to do such a thing as it potentially could render the whole event inoperable.’
Fortunately one of the players had a laptop with him that contained the same scoring program, allowing the tournament to continue.
John said the ‘wrong’ computer had had its serial number erased from its underside with an indelible marker - suggesting the swap was pre-meditated.
Event organiser Liz Kelly said: ‘I just find it bizarre and hard to believe myself. It’s really weird.’
Sergeant Kevin Quirk, operations and crime manager for Douglas, said: ‘We are treating this as theft at this stage.
‘We are pursuing all lines of inquiry. We just hope someone picked up the wrong laptop by mistake.’