Answer Best answer as chosen by user Dan1792
Honestly, if there's been a police report filed that it's stolen, your best bet really would probably be to just take it to the cops and let them sort things out. The longer you keep possession of it the worse it looks for you, even if you're completely innocent of any wrongdoing.
If you can provide proof of purchase for it, then it should be a pretty quick matter for the police who will quickly turn their attention to your ex for filing a false police report. And I would honestly say that having your computer impounded by the police would be suitable grounds for an extension on your dissertation. Just have the police give you some kind of evidence claim form, or an official document saying that, yes, they did seize your computer on this date, etc.
If you go ahead and try and pull data off of it, you could potentially be charged with obstruction of a police investigation even if it ends up being that your ex is found to have been lying. You're probably flirting with that as it is, but you might be able to get them to not press the issue if you explain you were worried about research for your dissertation and simply panicked, quickly coming to your senses and deciding it would be the better long-term move to bring it in. It's at least possible they will allow you to pull data off of it under their supervision. Seems worth a shot, and you don't exactly have a lot to lose in that situation. Just get as much official documentation as you can from the police, maybe even the name of an officer that your faculty adviser could call in the event they think you're faking impound notices. The more concerned you seem with only the dissertation data on the computer, the more it helps your case with the police anyway.
And not to rub salt in the wound or anything, but this is why you always, Always, ALWAYS have backups. Especially if we're talking several years worth of research data. I once had a tech support job at a university, and basically just by dumb luck the backup program the department used was pointed at the wrong drive for a couple of people. So the poor guy's computer crashes, and uh oh, no backups either. Set back his graduation date about 2 years I think. The small upside for him was that he ended up getting a computer better than some of the faculty members when my then-boss felt kind of bad about the fact that the backup program didn't work, grad students usually getting the hand-me-downs from the faculty. But I can almost guarantee you that after that point, he started keeping his own backups as well. You should have been doing the same as well. You have the copy on the computer, another set on a portable HDD or flash drive, and then maybe every month or week or whatever, you burn a copy to DVD and store that in a secure location. Often times it takes an experience like this for people to get the message, and there's nothing you can do to change the past, but you can make sure that going forward this won't happen again.
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