A thief stole more than 250 iPhone 5s today before the device even went on sale.
Mobile phone shop worker Usman Sethi, 23, is accused of taking 252 of the mobiles – worth up to £170,000 – plus a wad of cash.
Police are tonight hunting for the Pakistani national who is believed to be driving a grey Ford Mondeo.
Ports and airports had been put on alert amid fears that the suspect may try and flee the country.
He is accused of stealing the iPhone 5s from the store where he works in Wimbledon, south London, at 1.30am – six and a half hours before they were due to go on sale.
The O2 store in Wimbledon took delivery of the phones ahead of their official release in the early hours but they were taken a short while after.
Detectives say they also want to speak to Sethi, from Ilford, east London, in connection with missing jewellery taken from a member of his family at his home in Audley Gardens, Ilford.
The Apple iPhone 5 is the most hotly-anticipated mobile of the year – and fans have queued for days so they can be the first to get their hands on the device.
The phone is already guaranteed to be a best-seller, with the company reporting pre-orders around the world of two million in just 24 hours and many customers not expected to receive theirs until October.
A security guard working at the neighbouring Boots store in the Tandem shopping centre claimed police had discovered CCTV footage showing a man loading the iPhones into a car.
The guard, who asked not to be named, said: ‘The police came in here this afternoon and asked to go through our CCTV because we have cameras at the back of the shop.
‘They told me they already had CCTV footage of the man loading the iPhones into his car, but the policeman told me that they think he is already out of the country.
‘But they still want witnesses who might have seen something to come forward so they can build their case.
‘He said it was just one member of staff they were looking for.’
Customers expecting to pick up a handset from the south London 02 shop were left disappointed when they received a call this morning telling them their phone would be delayed.
One hopeful customer, who was waiting patiently waiting for the shop to open this afternoon, said: ‘They rang me this morning and said that I wouldn’t get my phone first thing because Apple hadn’t delivered enough handsets and that I would have to wait until the afternoon to get one.
‘I’ve only just found out the real reason.’
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘We wish to speak with a man in connection with the theft of 252 Apple iPhone 5 smartphones from a shop in Wimbledon.
‘The man is 23-year-old Usman Sethi, of Audley Gardens, Ilford. He works as an assistant at the O2 Store in the Tandem Centre in Wimbledon.
‘He is an Asian man, 6ft 1in tall and a Pakistani national. He may be driving a grey Ford Mondeo.
‘The store had taken delivery of the new phones which were due to go on sale at 9.00am today. 252 of the phones were taken from the store at 1.30am. A quantity of cash was also stolen from the safe.’
He added: ‘Police also wish to speak with Mr Sethi in connection with the theft on Friday morning of jewellery belonging to a family member from his home address in Audley Gardens.
‘Anyone who has seen Mr Sethi or has information that would assist the investigation should call Merton CID on 020 8649 3062 or, to remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.’