Alice comes home to discover a Ransacked Room
, the window broken and her laptop and all her jewelry missing. Clearly she's been the victim of a burglary and with the thief long gone there's no chance she'll ever catch the culprit.
However, the true culprit isn't some opportunistic burglar, it is in fact Bob, who even now is pretending to console Alice for her loss. Bob only needed to steal the secrets hidden on Alice's laptop and as Alice's trusted friend, had the door key to let himself in in order to do so. However, by trashing the room, smashing the window and taking other valuables, Bob has left enough red herrings that no one will suspect his involvement.
The faked burglary has a number of other popular uses:
- Faking a burglary in order to perpetrate Insurance Fraud
- Disguising a premeditated murder by making it look as if the victim discovered a robbery in progress and the robber panicked.
- Trash the room and remove valuables to disguise the fact that something had been hidden, such as electronic surveillance or explosives.
- Trick the victim into thinking she's under threat by faking a break-in.
Even if the break-in is genuine and the valuables are kept, the key factor of this trope is that the the burglary is used to mislead and misdirect somehow.
One classic method of a detective determining that the burglary is a false one is by finding pieces of glass from the broken window on the outside of the room (thereby proving that the burglar broke it from the inside) or, slightly more subtly, that the window was broken from the outside, but either after the burglary had taken place (footprints under the broken glass) or in such a way that the burglar could not have used the hole in the window to open it.
- A variation happens in Sin City's That Yellow Bastard. Hartigan sees that Nancy's house has been broken into and suspects that it was the Rourke family who has kidnapped her. It turns out that the whole thing was a Red Herring. Her apartment break in was a separate crime but he ended up rushing to her job, leading the bad guys right to her.
Live Action Television
- In A Fish Called Wanda, Archie fakes a robbery in order to recover Wanda's necklace from his wife... unfortunately Otto catches him in the act and subdues him, thinking he's doing Archie a favor by catching the robber.
- Used in Match Point as part of a larger murder plot.
- In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Elsa Schneider ransacks her own room as well as Indiana's, making Indiana blame an unknown third party rather than her.
- #3 is the key thing in the Will Smith movie Enemy of the State.
- Type 2 is used in Dial M for Murder
- In the last part of the Soviet movie Operation Y, a warehouse manager who has been stealing state property from the warehouse he was entrusted with hires three Loveable Rogues to fake a burglary and save him from revision inspections. Things go wrong when the student Shurik, by coincidence, talks the old lady who was supposed to stand guard that night into letting him substitute for her while she tends to her little daughter and dough.
- #4 was used on an episode of Monk involving Capt. Stottlemeyer's fiance and a tuxedo garment bag.
- #2 has shown up a lot in Monk. When Brad Garrett's character stabs and kills his girlfriend in "Mr. Monk Buys a House", this is what he does, for instance.
- In "Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend," the killer tried breaking a pane of glass to make it look like she broke into the house where the murder happened.
- SMTV Live had a segment which was a parody of Bill And Ben where Ant and Dec's characters started vandalising their own homes so they could claim insurance.
- Happened a few times in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and spin offs, including one Las Vegas episode where a woman had replaced a diamond in a ring with a fake and claimed the thief had swapped the stone when the jewels were returned.
- What I Like About You:
- In an episode of Leverage, a diamond seller has some thieves steal a shipment of his diamonds so he can claim the insurance while selling the diamonds on the black market.
- This story is based on a probably fake story given to Wired magazine by a diamond thief where he claimed that he was an unwitting pawn in insurance fraud by several diamond merchants in Antwerp's Diamond District, the diamond capital of the world. According to his story he only got roughly 50 million worth of diamonds while 100-400 million were reported stolen. The problem with his story is that only 15 million in insurance claims were filed. A reconstruction of this told in the book Flawless:Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History. Though this idea would probably work however as there is a massive amount of black market sales in the diamond business.
- Burglary as a cover for premeditated murder has happened many, many times on Law & Order. Frequently a witness or beat cop will suggest "robbery gone wrong" as the motive for a crime before being shot down by the detectives. Other times the burglary is more carefully staged and provides a red herring for a good hunk of the episode. And sometimes it really was a burglar, although there will typically be more to it than a simple robbery.
- Goes not quite as planned in an episode of King of Queens. Doug and Carry want to get rid of an awful painting which was a present by the Palmers, so they tell Danny and Spence to fake-burgle their house and "steal" it. To lend the story some credibility, Spence and Danny are supposed to leave behind a chaos in the Heffernan's living room. In the end, their "chaos" only consists of a couch pillow lying on the floor. Needless to say, this doesn't really serve to convince the Palmers very much.
- Many, perhaps most Columbo villains have disguised their premeditated murders as burglaries or other crimes, usually giving themselves an apparently airtight alibi simultaneously. Columbo's first opponent, Dr. Ray Flemming in "Prescription: Murder", disguised his wife's murder as a burglary and made it look like it happened while he was out of the country. Columbo's second opponent, Leslie Williams in "Ransom for a Dead Man", murders her husband and disguises it as an elaborate fake kidnapping.
- In The Boondocks, Ed and Rummy break into houses to drum up business for Wuncler Security.
- The Simpsons:
- After Bart accidentally sets fire to the Christmas tree and destroys all of the family's presents, he claims that a burgular broke in and stole everything.
- In another episode, Moe asks Homer to "steal" his car and park it on the train tracks so that Moe can collect the insurance.
- Superman: The Animated Series: Superman's first adventure begins with the "theft" of a powered armor prototype, which turns out to be a cover for Lex Luthor conducting an illegal arms sale to Kaznia.