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My Burglary On 18th February 1991
(and some of the events that lead up to it)
Wanting to make some extra
money I had taken in a tenant a friend of a friend in my front
bedroom on the understanding that she had little money at that
time but I could expect the rent 'later'. Anyway at first things
were ok despite the obvious upset involved in someone else coming
and going, and it was quite enjoyable having something going on
and breaking the boredom. I should perhaps explain that by this
time I was NEVER going out or doing anything and hadn't done so
for some time. Anyway as I said for a time it was quite
interesting but it soon became apparent that she had the sort of
lifestyle where nothing is allowed to get in the way of her
all-important social life. She had a part time warehouse/dispatch
type of job, which seemed to allow her to go in and work for her
pin money whenever it suited her. She went out almost every night
to biker type nightclubs, to the pub or to friends' places. This
of course was a mutual arrangement, which meant that people were
always coming back to my house at all hours and often staying
over the night. At first I figured I simply had to get used to
this since if you live somewhere you expect to have your friends
round, but surely there has to be a limit. I was losing sleep by
constantly getting woken up in the early hours. At the weekends
her boyfriend would stay but since I vaguely knew him and thought
he was an ok sort of person I didn't mind that 'too' much.
Now this lodger was quite frankly a blatant dope addict who smokes joints as regularly as other people smoke cigarettes and, because of the social habit of 'passing the joint' and because I used to really enjoy getting stoned I soon fell into the trap of smoking dope every day! In no time at all I seemed to build up a tolerance and found to get anywhere near the desired result a drink was also required. So for some weeks I began smoking and drinking to excess.
Perhaps needless to say, no rent money was forthcoming, a fact I found rather galling when she continued going out to pubs etc. maintaining her social life. I was lead to believe that she was surviving by doing a little bit of dope dealing which despite my reservations I accepted to be ok since I would always have a supply. Around Christmas time she asked me to produce a letter stating what her rent was to enable her to make a claim for housing benefit. Despite my misgivings over the tax implications since I was not declaring I had a lodger, I did so.
Eventually she finished with her boyfriend who I thought was ok and started a relationship with a married man who was in a local heavy-duty bike club and who was definitely NOT ok. I made it clear that whilst I appreciated she would be having him call I didn't want any of the rest of the club members in MY house. This was agreed. Perhaps inevitably things got worse from here on. Being unemployed he would call on her at all hours and out they would go to return at all other hours. I began to get seriously tired and pissed off.
After atotal of nine weeks I broached the subject of rent and explained that I thought she was now taking the piss not having paid anything. I gave her a week to come up with something. Amazingly the very next day she went down to the council and assured me later that her claim was progressing and that these things take time. I let things lie but by now my paranoia and suspicions were getting the better of me. Every day she would go to a nearby phone box and make calls to her beloved or to her friends and because of her financial situation I began to wonder where the change was coming from for her to make the calls. One night when she was out I emptied both of the glass bottles that I kept in my living room into which I placed at the end of each day any loose change in my pockets. This was my way of saving for little luxuries for myself. I counted out every last penny, carefully, and made a note of the amount before replacing it all!
The following weekend on the Saturday night despite being absolutely tired out, with the lodger having gone out I knew it was pointless going to bed because I was bound to get woken up later. Sure enough she, her boyfriend and someone else noisily arrived back at about a quarter past midnight and all disappeared up to her room. I succeeded in getting all wound up by this and in a desperate attempt to shake off the feelings I was having ended up going for a ride on my motorcycle. I ended up sitting in the dark on the top of a local hill overlooking the city, smoking cigarettes for about an hour before reluctantly having to return to what had become much less MY home. Not long after I returned home they all decided to go out! I was by now really tired and went to bed but was to be woken by them returning a few hours later.
Now I have never considered my self to be a particularly light sleeper so I don't think it was just a case of me being unreasonable. There is more than one way to shut a door and turn a light switch on and off especially if you are taking the trouble to try and be quiet, know what I mean?
The next morning despite the lack of sleep I awoke at a relatively early hour because my body clock was set to work times. I spent the morning cleaning the bathroom. Well, who else would? The lodger and her partner spent the day in bed.
Early that afternoon I was just starting to have something to eat when I was interrupted, as had become the norm, by the doorbell and callers for my lodger. I shouted up to her but got no response so not really knowing what I should do I told them she had company but that they may as well go up. Within about two minutes they had re-emerged and left. Hmmmm! At about ten o'clock in the evening the boyfriend left informing me that the lodger was unwell.
By the next evening she was fine and I broached the subject of her trying to please keep the noise down so that I cold get some sleep since I had to go to work to earn a living. I also because of my growing suspicions pointed out that I would not stand for having drug deals being done at my house. She assured me she wasn't.
Tuesday morning at twenty to one I was again woken by my front door being opened and closed as 'people' came and went. This was accompanied by strange rattlings of my glass and chrome coffee table, which it transpired, were because the lodger had been briefly handcuffed to it as a joke. I wasn't amused. I made a decision that enough was enough and eventually with some difficulty got back to sleep.
I got up in the morning and after about a half hour of hard graft managed to swap the lock barrel from the front door with that from the back. Since the back door was always bolted anyway this gave me back control of who came into my home since I was the only one with keys to that lock. I then walked around to the phone box and called work to say that I would be taking a 'flexi' and wouldn't be attending that day.
Within about half an hour of my return to the house the lodger got up to make her breakfast and I told her to leave. "NOW!" She began packing and I began counting change. She soon reappeared and as she was about to leave to make some phone calls to arrange help with her move I asked her if she had been dipping in to my money. "No. I don't need to." was her swift and what seemed rather strangely worded reply considering I had just accused her of being a thief. I didn't believe her.
She eventually returned from making her arrangements and couldn't get in. After having let her in she went back upstairs and continued packing as I continued counting. I could hear her radio on and in a fit off anger couldn't resist saving my electric so off it went! I eventually finished re-counting and found the silver bottle had sixty pence less in it than I had counted the previous week. Despite my usual self doubt and my desire not to believe the worst I find in people I was convinced that I had not miscounted because of my double, double checking and because of the denominations involved in the discrepancy.
As the lodger began packing her things in the kitchen I asked if I was going to see any rent. She ignored my question and I lost my temper and ended up calling her a parasite, a liar and nothing more than a common thief and told her to leave . . .quickly! With the help of a friend she was soon gone.
Later in the morning it occurred to me that I should make sure that the local council rent officer was aware that I had received no money to prevent me from having any tax problems and moreover to make sure that the lodger received no money. I therefore typed out a letter, trying to make it look as official as possible, explaining that after exactly ten weeks no rent had been forthcoming and she had been evicted. I took it down to the local housing office and gave it to the chap dealing with her claim. He seemed most appreciative.
I subsequently found out that she had been dealing drugs from my home. Although I had obviously not received any rent I also calculated that the experience had probably cost me about £70 in increased utilities and bills! I was also left deeply concerned that I was now wide open to the possibility of being burgled because so many undesirable people were now aware of what was in my house and of precisely when I was in and not! Mutual friends reassured me that such a thing wouldn't happen because the lodger didn't have the intelligence to do such a thing. It wasn't so much her but more her clients that I was worried about!!
Was it just a coincidence?
Lo and behold a few weeks later after a week or so of extremely cold and snowy weather I arrived home from work on a Monday afternoon to find my front door open. It took a little time to sink in before I realised the very painful reality. I poked my head nervously around the door and saw that my video machines were gone. I went straight out and next-door to use their phone and call the police. Having done this I returned to find out exactly how bad things were.
As far as I could tell without wearing a deerstalker hat and smoking a pipe, entry had been easily obtained by forcing open the small steel framed window in the bathroom. The large window could then be easily opened through which the b******s had climbed. Nothing was damaged. The back door had then been opened from the inside presumably as a means of escape in the event of them having been disturbed in the act. The microwave oven was gone. My two VHS videos and my hard built collection of tapes were gone. All the remote control units were gone including the one for the TV although the TV itself had actually been left presumably because it was heavy old and not much good anyway. Even less so without a remote control! My hard earned brand new electric guitar was gone together with the electronic tuning unit. My change bottle had been emptied all except for a five-pound note which I had also put in it and which they obviously couldn't easily get out. What seemed remarkable was that the bottle had not been smashed but had laboriously been emptied. This must have taken some effort and a lot of time since the ten pence pieces would stick in the top. Very strange!!!? About forty pounds in cash was also gone from the mantle piece. The guitar amp had been pulled out of its normal position but had been left presumably because it had been wired through the shelf and into the alcove unit. I found out later, in the moving it had somehow been broken and no longer worked. My bedroom cupboard full of junk had been pulled out and gone through, as had a few of my drawers. My small suitcase full of building society books and the like had been gone through but nothing had been taken which also seemed to me a little strange. All too traceable for whoever did it I suppose.
All the stuff that was missing must have been removed by several trips to a waiting car in the street out the front. The front door latch had been forced off from the inside because it was deadlocked from the outside and couldn't be easily opened. Scratches on the wood of the door beneath the broken latch revealed that a large vicious looking combat knife that I'd had hung up as a display piece beside the fire had been used as a jemmy. It too was gone a fact that I found particularly unsettling. I also discovered that a cigarette had been taken from a pack on the shelf and had been smoked. The dog end was in the ashtray. All in all it seemed to me whoever had done this had been very sure of themselves and knew they had plenty of time.
Eventually a policeman called but lets face it I was painfully aware of the futility of his presence. To give him his due he did pretend to be concerned but I pride myself on being generally a realist and I let him know it. He confirmed detection rates were around twenty per cent for such crimes. Oh well . . .under the circumstances I concluded that I had come off very lightly. My stereo and my old acoustic guitar had been left, as had all of the radio and computer equipment in my back bedroom. In fact what had not been taken was more surprising than what had been. Weird!!!!! I estimated that I had lost goods and cash to the value of about fourteen hundred pounds. It could have been so much more but because I had no home contents insurance I was heartbroken. What was gone was lost and I had been put back several years in terms of material wealth!
The PC did what he could, which was pretty much just offer some solace by his presence, and ended up handing me a standard police 'Victims Of Crime' leaflet with his details and the crime reference number on it for insurance company use. I wished! Beneath the title the leaflet proudly announced its content with the statement 'How you can help the police to help you'. By this stage it seemed pretty obvious the only help the Police needed was to be told exactly who had done it!
I was told that the Scenes Of Crime Officer would be round the next day and that I should try not to touch too much until after then. Obviously I had to try and 'lock up' so in reality I had to touch most things.
I went around all the neighbors later to see if anything had been seen but of course nothing had despite the fact that during the day the street is deserted and like a ghost town.
Despite a freezer full of food I wasn't in the mood to cook and ended up going round to the local chip shop for my tea. There was a small queue in the shop and waiting in it I went through unexpected hell. I suspected everyone I knew, I suspected everyone in the queue, I suspected everyone and I suspected they were all doing it again in my absence right that minute! The mental torture resulting from being the victim off a burglary is little appreciated by someone who has never been one. I couldn't wait to get back home to make sure everything was ok. If only I'd had a day off that day. If only I'd had a half day and come home and caught them in the act. If only . . . . .if only . . . . .if only it hadn't happened. Who was playing my guitar that night? Who was watching one of my favorite films on my video? Who was out drinking my money? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!! Once back home, home had changed and was no longer a nice place to be. I even slept that night with a kitchen knife in the bedroom, so invaded and insecure did I feel.
I took the next day off work and sat about waiting for the scenes of crime man to turn up. A fatal arson attack in St. George apparently delayed his arrival and by about midday I just couldn't wait any longer and set about welding up the large steel framed bathroom window. A quick splash of paint over the weld and that was the last time that window would ever open. At about five in the afternoon SOCO turned up and went through the motions of taking fingerprints. I had already concluded that the only hope for fingerprints was the change bottle since this had obviously had a lot of handling. He duly dusted it down and showed me the impression of a different type of fabric from that which I had ever used to clean it. The b******s had been wearing gloves. Oh well . . . .that was that.
I took the following day off from work as-well and began fitting a five lever mortice lock to the front door in the belief that if they hadn't been able to force open the front door I may not have lost so much. In the midst of my frantic chiseling and pile of sawdust a car drew up and an elderly man got out and introduced himself as the local Victims Of Crime Support representative. They are apparently a voluntary group who are given a report each day from the police of who has been a victim of what and where. They then make calls to ensure that the victim is ok, is not in need of any assistance and gets some reassurance from someone who 'knows' what it is like. I was rather touched by this and was most appreciative although I felt a bit of a fraud since I felt that what I was 'suffering' was nothing in comparison to what some may suffer being perhaps elderly or infirm and having had far more serious crimes committed against them.
Having thanked him and confirmed that I was not in need of assistance with anything, he left me to continue 'bolting my barn door'. It was eventually done and after having finished clearing up and dead locked both front door locks I went into town to take out some home contents insurance. I couldn't really afford it but decided this time to trust my intuition which was telling me I ran the risk of being burgled again in a few months by the same people who would assume I had replaced everything that had been taken on insurance or who would return for what they hadn't taken the first time.
It can change you a little thing like this. It can turn your value system upside down. It impressed upon me the fragility of the stuff I own and hold dear. It could all be gone in an instant. I guess people who have a house fire know this more than most. Nothing, no item of sentimental value no matter how dear, is safe for you to keep forever. I still have a house full of stuff but I value it all rather differently. It is just a house full of stuff. I guess I had to learn whatever is important in life is not about 'stuff'.
Nevertheless to this day whenever I go out, when I return I always remember the feeling of what it is like to find your front door open and am glad when I have to unlock it.
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