ANGRY THOUGHTS BECOME WORDS:
A cathartic rant penned soon after the burglary of my home. The break-and-enter and subsequent robbery took place on the evening of 15 September between 6pm and 11pm. Here are my raw observations—
OUT FOR THE EVENING:
My family and I went to a live theatre production for the first time in several years and when we arrived home that night we felt that all was not well. We quickly turned on all internal lights throughout the house. It wasn’t until we entered our bedrooms that we saw small things dropped haphazardly on the floor. A notebook, a spectacles case, a shirt flipped off the hanger onto the floor and drawers slightly open. Nothing spectacular, no broken objects, but obviously all our rooms had been searched.
SHOCK AND DISBELIEF:
At first my feeling was one of shocked disbelief, we ran between bedrooms trying to find where the intruder had entered. Nothing was immediately visible and my daughter slammed the bathroom door shut with the thought that someone may still be in the house. As our report was phoned through to the police, my anger was slowly building until I kicked the bathroom door open, shrieking foul words of murder and mayhem. Behind me, my daughter screamed in fright at my violent action but we were both relieved that nobody was lurking there.
THE POINT OF ENTRY:
I went slowly into the living room and turned towards the dining room which led into the kitchen. At first glance I could see that the windows were intact and the back door was undamaged. Suddenly I noticed that the lounge chair in front of the French doors had been moved forward. I peered over and saw that the flyscreen had been damaged in one corner but the blinds were still closed. I unlocked the back door and went outside onto the patio. I had a vile afterthought that the burglar was probably watching me from the shrubbery, sniggering. The French doors were slightly ajar and moving closer I could see that they had been forced open, classic B&E. The top and bottom bolts were smashed out, splintering the wood, and the middle locks were broken off.
A MINOR OBSTACLE:
Back inside and time to have a closer look behind that lounge chair. The sliding flyscreen doors had given the burglar trouble, they were jammed with metal rods. I believe the burglar took off his glove (there is evidence inside and outside the house that gloves were worn) in order to flip the metal rod out of the runner. This rod was then discarded, to be found in our garden weeks later. It had been though rain and handled which was unfortunate because the forensic officer who attended the scene would have liked to have dusted it.
THE POLICE ARRIVE:
After a lengthy telephone call to CrimeStoppers, and a sleepless night, we awaited the arrival of the police next morning. Two officers arrived early with a forensic sergeant. They had a look around and were surprised to see no broken glass and our electronic devices and certain objects still in place. This is something which we have never understood but do believe we were done over by a specialist thief who targeted gold. I use the word “he” because I was later informed that two similar crimes had occurred over a three-day period and on the third day he was seen in a hallway and escaped by jumping out a window.
Regrettably I do not have the name of the forensic officer who was called in but she was very informative and helpful and took samples of gloved finger prints from the broken French doors, walls and throughout the house. She took clear photographs and checked items like the front of the jewellery chest-of-draws which she dusted for prints but which were on wood so not very useful. If I had been in a less shocked mood, it was a good example of police work.
FAMILY INHERITANCE LOST:
This thieving criminal stole gold items relating to my family history, small pieces from my great grandparents, finely crafted and lovingly engraved. An inheritance lost, no proof of ownership, not clear photos, only verbal descriptions. Special items, sentimental items kept in the third drawer down in my mother’s large pine chest-of-drawers. Yes, this is where the old jewellery was kept, all in original boxes, all quite obviously family treasures. Sure, silly place to put them but they were not worn often, too fine for general wear, and not my generation’s style.
ANGER, SORROW AND TAKING THE BLAME:
I am deeply sad and angry and wholly blame myself for the loss because I took our jewellery for granted. It was part of the family but I did not respect its uniqueness or irreplaceable value enough to make sure these precious objects were kept safe. My engraved wedding bracelet was worn, not hidden away. Gone now. Should we love and wear our meaningful possessions or lock them up? We run great risks with many things. There is insurance available but no matter what premium fees we pay, it will never ever replace our true possessions. I have steeled myself never to see those familiar pieces again. I know my family members are safe but I feel this loss like an ache.
MELTED DOWN OR SOLD AT AUCTION:
A shockwave went through me when I realised our jewellery may be melted down for its gold. But, according to a Melbourne jeweller I spoke to a week later, old gold is highly prized on the stolen goods market. Holding value, easily transported from thief to fence to crooked jewellery store to people out there who don’t care if it has been stolen. Sold as “deceased estate” jewellery, people will buy it, wear it, and lie about its provenance. Either way, I hope they rot in hell for all eternity.
SIFTING THROUGH THE RUINS:
The small sad broken little jewellery boxes are still in the chest-of-drawers. Initially I couldn’t delved too far, it was traumatic enough sitting on the bed to open each box from its jumble in the bottom of the drawer. I had to do an inventory. Instinctively I knew which pieces of jewellery would be gone – and they were. My gold rings were taken but everyday accessories were still there because they are average stuff. Of course there’s always the horror of the thief passing on details to other cronies who may be interested in what is left behind. Huh, nothin’ here now, mate.
TOUCHY FEELY KINDA GUY:
It was obvious the intruder had touched everything and anything in our house. The classic cat burglar, in most instances hardly moving objects, but perceptible just the same. The rough gloves worn to jemmy open the double doors were replaced by smaller, possibly surgical gloves, but they still left small dents in the dust on our bookcases and side tables. Three-prong finger prints where he had rested his middle fingers to reach up or pull an item forward. Those small gloved finger marks tell the story of a thorough search. Every framed picture, every ornament on every shelf had been moved. Anything which might conceivably contain cash or jewellery was opened and closed roughly or otherwise. Yes, even my t-shirts and undies drawer had been shuffled through. Various drawers had been almost closed as to be unnoticeable. But he had wanted them to be noticed.
EXTERNAL DAMAGE REPAIRED:
The locksmith was calm and professional and he showed me the methods used to break-and-enter as he repaired the damage. The door was pried in ten places to snap the barrel bolts and break off the locks. You could see where the thief had rested his grip-gloved hand while he worked. Also, explained the locksmith, marks were on window sills at the back of the house where windows had been probed, the security screen lock on the back door was loose, too.
FORCE USED ON INTERNAL DOORS:
Inside, where this felon could not easily open a storage cupboard, force was used. Fortunately we never keep any cash on the premises but the bending of hinges and buckling of locks is easy to see. Door handle screws were loosened, the bottom door on an old metal filing cabinet (never locked anyway) is damaged, the locked door between our garage and hallway held firm but had been jemmied and now rattles in the frame.
INSULT TO INJURY:
My emotions seesawed from sadness to annoyance to outrage. One particular thing which made me fume and cry “How dare he!” was when I discovered the hinged bracket on my stepladder had been damaged. During his unlawful search, the thief had broken my stepladder!
ANOTHER MISSING ITEM:
When I had a thought about something, say a trinket box or unused cupboard, I would look to see if anything inside had been moved, sure enough, it had. Days later I realised a small insignificant brooch was missing. And everywhere those chilling little gloved fingerprints. The thing which surprised me was the opening of food packets in our kitchen. No mess but dry goods were rifled. Even foodstuff in the refrigerator had been rearranged. I thought that only happened in movies.
IN THE TIME WE WERE AWAY:
On the crucial night of the burglary, he certainly had a field day and didn’t have to worry about the length of time we would be away, seeing as our calendars advertised the start and finish time of the show we attended. We were away for approximately five hours. Basically, our lives were overturned in that time. As mentioned, he’d worked throughout the house and over the following days we discovered more tamper-evident details.
TAMPERING WITH ELECTRICITY SUPPLY:
The switchboard power box at the side of the house has been damaged because it had a jammed clasp which squeaked when pulled open and shut. I checked it and could see the screws have been slacked off so the lock was useless. I remembered waking up one morning and the clocks were flashing, showing the power had gone off at approximately 2am. Someone checking the switches? An outdoor floodlight had been broken during the burglary and was subsequently replaced. Another cunning trick is to turn off the water supply to gauge if the householder is at home.
WATCHING AND WAITING:
It is my strong belief that the thief was watching our house for at least a week or two before we were robbed. My spider senses were working but I forced them down, I knew something was “out there” and chose to rationalise, ignoring my tiny twinges. I did get a scare when I went down to the rubbish bin after dark one night. Glancing up I thought I saw a shadow dive around the corner of the narrow walkway at the back of the empty house next door. Nah, just imagination, right? Never happened before…out-of-character for our quiet street…
NEVER IGNORE YOUR SUSPICIONS:
I do know I heard “things” several days beforehand and tried to dismiss them. I shouldn’t have, they were significant sounds. Once or twice the wind chimes tinkled when there wasn’t a breath of air. Another time I heard our loose paving step rattle, a bin lid drop, the door shake. Why was I aware of this? Familiar sounds, yet unusual at those times. I turned on the outdoor lights. Maybe that was the night I scared a sneak thief, testing, checking points of entry.
POOR CONDITIONS FOR US:
On the night of the burglary, the house on our left was unoccupied (owners out to dinner), the house on the right was a vacant rental and the house immediately behind us was also an empty rental. Perfect conditions for a would-be thief; means, motive and opportunity! We no longer own a dog and, ironically, one week after the break and enter, the house on the right was rented and the new tenants have two teenagers, two dogs and one cat. Then the house behind us was occupied by a young family also with two dogs. Always plenty of activity now which would have been useful just one week earlier. C’est la vie.
BE VIGILANT WITHOUT BEING PARANOID:
Things worth watching for – I had noticed a shiny black motor cycle with a rider clad in black leathers cruising up and down our street a couple of times. In our average middle-class street, he was not a regular nor a neighbour. I heard him in the next street over, cruising up and away. A week later I was chatting to a friend at the front gate and a dark sports car with blackened windows cruised slowly up our street. No headlights on, it was dusk, so the number plate was not visible. I always pray that our scrutiny scared off that driver. Both these occasions, I am certain, were “patrols” by the criminal fraternity.
NO ARREST IN SIGHT:
To date, the thieving scumbag is still at large. No matter what I do from now on in, I will always be double checking the doors and locks and security lights. He is obviously specific, neat and creepy in all his movements. He could have family connections to a jeweller, he could have been groomed to thieve for the family firm. Perhaps a drug or gambling addiction? There could be a number of reasons why he does what he does but none of them is excusable or legal. I hate this faceless nameless criminal who broke into my home. I hate him with a passion and still haven’t recovered from the crushing of my security, my safety, my homelife.
Thanks a lot, you rat fink bastard.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
N.B. Images used for illustration purposes only.