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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

We've been robbed!

It was a normal day's work for me: shopping in other peoples' homes.

I arrived a little later than usual at my lock-up garage, where I keep my white van. I don't keep it at home because I have to keep my current work and personal lives separate from each other. My wife Kathy still thinks I work in the personal taxation department of the Inland Revenue so I leave the house at the same time every week day morning.

My first task each morning is to choose which set of the magnetic advertising signs to put on the van. There is one for each day; 'Stop-tap Plumbers', 'Power Electrics', 'Aerial Installations', 'Spick & Span Decorators' and 'Green Finger Gardeners'. To compliment these I have a choice of three sets of vehicle number plates. I keep a diary of which sets of signs and numbers have been used each day. As well as changing the appearance of my van I change my appearance; swapping my civil-servant suit, shirt, tie and polished shoes for overalls, t-shirt and trainers.

I selected the two houses I was to enter that day, carefully as always, after carrying out my detailed surveillance during the week before. I only choose properties in areas that are middle to upper-class home owner domains. I don't include council or housing association rented properties because too many of them have people at home during the day.

I tour an area for two or three days looking for possible targets. I prefer houses that are surrounded by high walls or hedges, or have several substantial shrubs between the house and the road. Each day I visit an area the van has a different sign displayed to confuse any net curtain twitchers. Once I have selected a short list I carry-out an evening walk past of each to see how many vehicles are in the drive. Two or more cars during the evening and none during the day is a good indication of an empty home; whereas one in the evening and none during the day is uncertainty and more caution is needed. As a considerable number of home-owners don't shut the curtains in the lounge in the evening it also gives me the chance to catch a view of possible electrical home entertainment goodies.

I like to start at my first selected house of the day as soon after 10:00 a.m. as possible, but that day I was late. I normally make my calls between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. because that is when people are most likely to be away at work, school or running errands.

There weren't any cars on the drive so I parked my van on the road in front of the property and went to the front door and knocked loudly, with the brass lion's head. I waited and then knocked again. As I hoped, no one was home. Before going round to the back door I always quickly check to see if there is a key under a flower pot, or welcome mat, or drain cover – no such luck this time. As soon as I'm in the back garden I again check the usual hiding places including between the support batons under the shed floor. In this case the owner had helped me by leaving the back door key in the lock on the inside. With my trusty circular suction pad and glass cutter, always in my not just for appearance toolbox, it was easy to put my arm through the neat hole I'd cut and unlock the door – easy access. People will never learn to not leave keys in locks.

My journey through the property follows a tried and tested route after putting my tool box against the front door. Putting something there acts as a warning, if the owner returns and comes in that way, to give me time to escape quickly through the back door.

Bedrooms first for jewellery, cash and small electrical items. I checked the easy to find hiding places; on top of the wardrobe; in the wardrobe at the back of the shelves behind clothes; under the bed. I found some nice items and a box to carry them in. These were put by the front door before I went into the lounge. The television, DVD player, Acer laptop, Wii and Xbox were soon sitting in the hallway waiting to go. I was disappointed that there wasn't an Ipad. In just about twelve minutes my shopping was done and ready to be put in the van. Using the front door access, I went to get it and calmly reversed onto the drive so the rear doors were facing away from any possible prying eyes.

In less than eighteen minutes I was out of the property and leaving with my gifts in my van: having remembered to secure the front door as I left – of course.

Two hours later, a change of van signs and fifteen miles away from the first, I entered my second choice for the day. It was good of the owner to leave the key on the ledge in the roof of the porch. Another two televisions, a 32 inch and a 19 inch, two Toshiba laptops, an Xbox and several items of jewellery were quickly in the van and I was finished shopping for the day, well before my 3:00 p.m. deadline.

I drove for a couple of miles before stopping and removing the day's magnetic signs from the van. I like it to be a plain white vehicle when I deliver my goods to my buyer, as does he. I always try to collect and sell in the same day. I didn't get the prices I would have preferred, as he had purchased some similar items earlier in the day, but I had earned a good-day's pay.

Having returned the van to the security of the lock-up garage and changed back into my civil servant clothes it was almost 5:30 p.m. when I turned my car into our road.

My heart skipped several beats and I felt hot and faint when I saw the flashing blue lights of the police car parked outside of my house. How could they have found me? I'm so careful to cover my tracks and keep my business and personal lives apart! I stopped the car and was about to turn round and escape when I spotted my wife in front of our house. She was talking to one of the police officers and I realised she had seen me and the car coming home.

I had no option. I slowly drove the last seventy-five yards. I was trying to quickly get my thoughts together for a good presentation of my prepared alibi.

“Where have you been? What have you done?” was the greeting from my wife.

“Why? What am I supposed to have done?”

“What have you done? I'll tell you what you've done!” she bellowed. “When you went to work this morning you left the back door unlocked. We've been robbed!”

“What? Why blame me?”

“Because you were running late, rushing to get out, and were the last to leave.”

She was right. She continued to bellow my humiliation.

“You're always going on about security and yet you leave an open invitation to some scum-bag thief! Well he accepted it! Our home has been vandalised and our televisions, laptops, my gold jewellery and your Rolex watch have all been stolen!”

© Elliot Sampford 2013

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