Chastened China thief returns iPhone data

image captionFor many iPhones are valuable more for the data they hold than the handset itself

A thief in China has taken the unusual step of writing out 11 pages of phone numbers stored on a stolen iPhone and has sent them to its rightful owner.

The pickpocket reportedly took the phone from Zou Bin when they shared a taxi together earlier this month in central Hunan province.

In a text to the thief, Mr Zou urged him to return the phone, saying: "I can assure you that I will find you.

"Send me back the phone to the address below if you are sensible."

Mr Zou - who works in the drinks industry - was more worried about the data on the phone than the handset itself.

He texted the pickpocket that his contact list would reveal that he should not be crossed.

"Look through the contact numbers in my mobile and you will know what trade I am in," he added.

Days later, Mr Zou received a parcel containing his SIM card and 11 pages of carefully handwritten contact numbers.

He told Chinese media that he was astonished by the result.

"It would take a while to write from one to 1,000, let alone names and a whole string of digits. I suppose [the thief's] hand has swollen," he said.

The pickpocket's actions haven been praised by Chinese internet users who have dubbed him the "the conscience of the [robbery] industry" and comparing him to Lei Feng, a member of the People's Liberation Army, widely held to be the model citizen the Chinese should aspire to.