- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) - An Australian couple biking from Alaska to South America who had their bicycles and camping equipment stolen in Mount Vernon, Washington, are thrilled to hear their gear has been found and the suspects arrested.

Billy Barnetson, 34, and Anna Suthers, 31, from Thirroul on the east coast of Australia, south of Sydney, didn’t wait around after their hard luck Aug. 14 when they had stopped to eat at restaurant in the city about 60 miles north of Seattle.

They bought new bikes and equipment and continued riding south. They were in San Francisco on Tuesday when Mount Vernon police announced they had cracked the case.

Tips identified a local couple suspected of selling stolen property through pawn shops, Lt. Chris Cammock said. The break came when a detective who specializes in computer forensics was able to recover images from a camera, even though the memory card had been erased.

That confirmed it was the victims’ camera, and it led officers to serve a search warrant Oct. 3 at a home in Burlington. They found the stolen camping gear and bicycle equipment. Police also seized a significant amount of property apparently taken in other burglaries and thefts in the area. The bicycles were found several days later, although some parts were missing.

A Mount Vernon couple, both 24, were arrested and jailed for investigation of possessing and trafficking in stolen property.

The camera and an iPod have already been mailed to Barnetson and Suthers. Police plan to ship the rest.

“We wanted these folks to have a better experience than they had the first go-round,” Cammock said. “We’re pleased to have resolved it.”

But police aren’t nearly as pleased as the biking Australians.

“We are amazed that they have recovered so much!” Barnetson said in an email. “We honestly thought our stolen bikes would be a low priority but the Mount Vernon police have been excellent and have kept us informed the whole way through.”

They expect to rendezvous with their old bikes and gear at a friend’s house in Los Angeles by Oct. 28.

“But now we are going to have the dilemma of two sets of everything,” Barnetson said. They purchased the replacement bikes and gear from REI and hope to return them for refunds.

“REI has been awesome in this regard,” Barnetson said.

They started their trip in Alaska on June 1 and plan on cycling to Colombia by next June 1.

As for the suspects’ arrest?

“Bloody awesome!” Barnetson said. “It was a terrible feeling to realize everything was gone; so knowing they didn’t get away with it is very satisfying.”

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