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Camden New Journal - By ROISIN GADELRAB
Published: 17 January 2008

Dr Janet Radcliffe Richards
Computer thief ‘took a chunk of my life’

WHEN ­leading medical academic Dr Janet Radcliffe Richards woke to find an intruder in her bedroom she did not have time to be frightened.
Three weeks on and the Oxford academic is still not worried – she is too preoccupied trying to recreate years of precious work lost when thieves took her two laptops and back-up drive.
Dr Radcliffe Richards lost hundreds of notes, book chapters, papers, emails and contacts in the break-in at her home in Huddleston Road, Tufnell Park.
The academic, who until last August was director of the Centre for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine at University College London, woke at 8am just before Christmas to find someone in her room.
“It was broad daylight,” she said. “I leapt out of bed and he raced off downstairs. It was a young teenager. I didn’t have time to be frightened. It feels as though a huge chunk of life has been stolen – all these things I’ve written down that don’t exist anywhere else. If I was hit by a bus tomorrow there wouldn’t be any of this left.”
She added: “It’s a particularly horrible kind of loss. I shall certainly look into security but I don’t feel unsafe. It has not got me lying awake worried but that’s partly because I’m so concerned about losing my work. I don’t think they have any concept of what a catastrophe it is for a writer. I’ll just have to grit my teeth and start again.”
As well as taking two Apple laptops, the thief ran off with an external hard drive, three gold women’s watches, a man’s watch, some Australian sheepskin slippers, a cosmetics case, her passport and cash.
Dr Radcliffe Richards said: “It’s worth almost nothing to them. They have no idea of the value of what they have stolen. It’s an argument in favour of all those people who want to change the juvenile justice system to make them face the victim. Probably some mothers and sisters have had gold watches as Christmas presents and someone’s grandmother has been given some slippers.”
Dr Radcliffe Richards was working on two books for Oxford University Press and had just finished a paper for Blackwell’s Companion to Bioethics.
She said: “This was my cumulative address book. All my lecture notes for [UCL] medical school have gone.
“I’ve had a lot of books simmering in the back of my mind. I have half-written chapters, every idea that I’ve written down. With philosophy, an awful lot of it is in my head – ideas I’d had that I may never have again. My stuff is quite idiosyncratic. I just write things down as I think of them. There are large chunks of text which would be very hard to recreate.”

Anyone with information about the theft can contact Islington police on 020 7700 3775 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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