'Spiderman' claims heists are tall story

THEY CALL him "Spiderman", a cat burglar who has become something of a folk hero within the Florida crooks' community. He has, they say, climbed as high as 30 floors up skycraper apartment blocks, from balcony to balcony, using only his strength, agility and Ninja-style boots.

But is his real name Derrick James, a 33-year-old former paratrooper with the United States 82nd Airborne Division? Police say it is. Mr James denies it. But he is on trial in Miami this week for one of the 132 robberies police attribute to "Spiderman".

If convicted, police believe they may be able to pin on him many of the other high-rise robberies, usually jewellery and credit cards taken from the upper floors of apartments along Miami Beach's so-called "Condo Canyon".

Police suspect him of a jewellery heist on the 10th floor of my own building. I live on the seventh. A couple of months ago, police came to my door and asked to look at my balcony. They showed me what they said were footprints suggesting "Spiderman" had passed through on his way up. I had my doubts. I'd been home at the time, with my balcony door open. And it looked impossible to bridge the six-foot gap from my balcony railing to the gripless concrete above without climbing equipment.

"It's outrageous. Nobody could do what they're saying," Mr James told reporters who visited him in jail. "I'm not the Spiderman and I don't know who he is." He rolled up his prison overalls sleeves to show normal biceps. For the sake of fairness, his trial judge has barred the use of the word "Spiderman" in the courtroom.

At the trial yesterday, a Miami pawnbroker testified he believed Mr James was Spiderman. "He once came in to sell me some jewellery. When I asked him why he was limping, he said he'd fallen from a balcony," said Orlando San Miguel. "He came to sell me stuff several times, telling me he got it by climbing from balcony to balcony."

The pawnbroker said that, in return for his testimony, police had promised not to prosecute him for receiving stolen jewellery.

Mr James was charged with the single burglary, from the seventh floor of Miami's Bristol Tower condominium in June, after police saw him in the vicinity and found a stolen laptop computer and $5,000 (pounds 3,080) of jewels in his car. They suspect him of robbing an apartment on the 30th floor of the same building, netting $1m of valuables on another occasion.

Mr James said he earned his living - between $70,000 and $120,000 a year - from gambling on horse races. With several prior convictions, he faces several years in jail if convicted. The trial is expected to conclude in the next few days.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat