I knew something was strange as soon as I got back from work about 8pm, because I couldn't get in. My key was turning in the Yale lock, but it wasn't opening. I had to knock on the neighbour's door and ask them to let me through into their back garden, so that I could get into our garden and see if I'd left a window unlocked anywhere, although I was sure I hadn't.
At this point I thought I'd just managed to lock myself out somehow, or something had gone wrong with the lock... I fitted it myself, so it's perfectly possible that I messed it up somehow - I inherited lots of things from my Dad, including a tall slim build, a stubbornly-resilient head of hair and an overpowering love of guitars, but sadly his skill with DIY completely passed me by.
So, bumbling about in the back garden with my neighbour, I tried the back door, and it was open. "Yay for my lax security!" I cried, big slightly-embarrased grin with the neighbour, gaw-blimey-what-a-muppet-I-am-guvnor, forget-me-own-head-if-it-wasnt-screwed-on expression on my face as I went inside. And it was as soon as I walked into the kitchen that I realised what had happened.
It looks like they kicked in the catflap in the back door, then managed to get to the key, which was in the lock - either with a very long thin arm, or some bent coat-hanger kind of contraption, I don't know. But I'm sure that's how they got in. I figure they must have then gone straight through to the front door and flipped the deadlock switch - so they wouldn't be disturbed if I came home early and tried to let myself in through the front door.
The bastards had torn everything off the shelves and emptied every box onto the floor, in every room, evidently looking for money or small items they could fence quickly, like jewellery. They tore all our clothes out of the cupboards and drawers, went through everything, and trampled lots of back-garden mud into our beautiful fluffy white deep-pile bedroom carpets in the process.
Luckily, they didn't steal much. They must have been in and out within a few minutes. They took :
- a Nikon Coolpix 6MP digital camera
- possibly an old Sony Ericcson mobile, but most importantly
- Lisa's Dad's Toshiba laptop.
- possiby some of Lisa's jewellery.
Anyone who's seen me present at a London CFUG will probably remember the laptop - it's HUGE (17"), shiny and red, and weighs an absolute ton. So if by any chance you see it cropping up on eBay or in your local Cash Converters, email me.
It could have been far worse, of course. They didn't take:
- any of my guitar collection
- my main PC
- the TV, DVD player, X-box, etc
- my passport - phew! - despite all my paperwork living in orderly, clearly-labelled box files
- Lisa's treasured Jimmy Choo shoes
- any of the climbing/mountaineering equipment, despite going through it all
- my stupidly expensive mountaineering watch, which I bought with my leaving present (gift vouchers) from Headshift
(Sadly they didn't even take the all-in-one printer that I ordered online ages ago, without realising what a huge great monstrous carbuncle it was going to be, and have regretted buying ever since)
And they didn't leave any nasty surprises on the carpet / up the wall / etc. When I got burgled back in Bridlington (by a guy who I thought was my best friend at the time) they left a nice big turd in the middle of the carpet, and killed the cat in the process. When my mum got burgled a few years ago, they smeared shit up the walls and left what I'll just call a "deposit" in her underwear drawer. I'm thankful that they didn't do any of that in our flat.
It must be a sign of the times that I was far more worried about them stealing my identity and information than my posessions. They now know my name, what I look like, where I live and where I work. I'm still worried about what was on the laptop. Did I have any banking information on there? Did Lise? Too late to check now. Hopefully if they didn't steal my passport, they're not sharp enough to realise what they have, and they'll just format the disk before flogging it on - but you just don't know, do you - and that's going to worry me.
Things like this make you realise, in fact, that when someone breaks in and steals your stuff, it's just stuff - and stuff doesn't actually matter that much. Stuff can be replaced. Mess can be tidied up - it took me until 2:30am this morning, but I cleared it all up. What matters is people, and I'm just grateful that Lise wasn't here when they came, and that she didn't get the huge shock I did when I walked in, and that she didn't have to see the mess they made of our beautiful home.
What gets me, though, is that feeling of being violated. "An Englishman's home is his castle" as the saying goes, and my castle feels...soiled. Fuckers.
I've now got a fun-packed day to look forward to today. The police were too busy to come round last night, so they're coming this morning, probably just to take my particulars and give me a crime number for the insurance. I'm sure they've got more urgent priorities, like trying to stop fifteen-year-olds shooting each other, which seems to be the preferred pastime-du-jour. I've got to file the insurance claim, get the locks changed, and try to get the back door replaced, if I can.
And I also have to tell Lise, and her Dad, over a dodgy mobile phone reception and an 8hr time difference, and I just know that it's going to break her heart. It;s going to ruin the remaining week of her holiday, and she's going to worry herself sick every day until she comes home.
So let this be a cautionary tale. Never leave your key in the lock! And if you, like me, keep looking at your door or windows and thinking "hmm, really ought to get round to getting that properly fixed-up at some point..." then get round to it TODAY! OK? Ok...