I spoke to an elderly man the other day who had just been burgled. Luckily he had been out when it happened but his hand was still shaking as he held the papers he had been sent by the insurance company to fill in and he said that he would not be going out for the rest of the week. When I said the only way to get over these things is to get on with life as normal, he just looked at me and I was ashamed for trying to give him such glib reassurance.
He said that life for him had changed forever, and he wished he could tell the burglars just what they had done and the impact they had made upon his life. So, on his behalf, here in a letter are the things the 73-year-old man would like to say to the thieves who entered his property and stole from him.
Dear Sir or Madam,
When you climbed on my roof the other night and used the spade you had found in my garden to break open my bedroom window, you did far more damage than you will ever know.
Of course there is the cost – replacing the window you broke, repairing the door you forced open on your way out, the locks I will now need to put on every door and window, the new frames for the photographs you smashed, the painting that must be done to remove all traces of you from my walls, the cleaning of the clothes you touched. Then there is the time you have taken – the hours spent with police, forensics, insurance, the time I will spend cleaning every surface that might bear any memory of your presence in my home.
I didn’t have many valuable items. But you know that, you looked everywhere. I don’t even have a credit card or a passport that you could steal, so at least you couldn’t take my identity, but you did take some trinkets that you might pawn for a couple of quid. I bet that made you angry, all that effort for a few pounds.
Taking my late wife’s jewellery was the one thing you took that has cut me to the core. Two rings, an engagement ring and a wedding ring, the only tangible link I had to the person I loved.
No matter how much I tell myself, “it isn’t personal, I was just one of many”, it still feels very personal. Were you watching me to learn my routine? Are you someone who knows me, who I say ‘hello’ to? It is difficult to stop myself becoming suspicious of the tradesman, the neighbour’s son, the person who asked me for directions – you have forced me into an unpleasant sense of distrust of everyone.
It is difficult to admit the fear factor. Okay, you are very unlikely to return to the scene of the crime, but what if you do? My home has gone from being my sanctuary and safe-house and instead it has become a place that sets my heart racing every time I return home. Until last week I was happy to go out and visit friends and family, now I am scared to leave the house, because of the dread I feel when I return.
My family gathered ranks to help me and for a while I forgot about you. Together we cleaned the house from top to bottom and the rooms rang out with defiant laughter. Old photos caused giggles, cupboards were cleaned and cobwebs that had gathered behind yellowed pictures on the wall were cleared away. Together we went through a cleansing process to rid the house of the taint and stench of you, but when the family went home, your nameless face came back to haunt me.
I know you are likely to get away scot-free and you will do this again to some other innocent person. You will make a murky little dealing for the things you stole; you are probably happy after another successful, unlawful night’s work. You have no idea that, aside from my wife’s rings, the most priceless thing you took from me was my confidence.