Saturday, March 28, 2009

Oh No! Not AGAIN!

It was a week almost to the hour that we had had the armed robbery that we had yet another break in. This time we weren't at home thankfully so we arrived home to find that the bedroom window and the 'intruder proof' lounge window weren't so intruder proof after all! I would hazard a guess that these two incidents were related. The second group weren't the same as the first I think but were definitely looking for the replacements that were a result of the first. Unlucky for them, the first group got away with just about everything and the second got away with just about nothing, I think the only thing they actually took was a 7" digital picture frame without the power adapter. What all these guys (I assume it was guys) do with the electronic equipment without the power adapters is beyond me. In particular the apple equipment has special power supplies and one can't just go and buy them. So now, on top of all the work to repair the damage done last weekend we now have to replace window and clean up the house - again!

Strangely, although the second incident wasn't as physically intimidating it has had a far more severe psychological affect on us so instead of sleeping in a glass covered bedroom with no windows we went and stayed in the sandton holiday inn for the evening. When I was parking the car I didn't know that there was reserved parking for hotel residents so I parked in sandton square and then tried to move it. Unfortunately for me, leaving co-incided with the end of some huge event and the queues for the parking payment were literaly about 40 people deep so I went in search of another pay station and each one I got to had a similar queue or was out of order and my sense of humour was fading fast with each successive one. So in addition to all the normal last minute things that have to be attended to when going overseas we had to get the glass replaced, alarm repaired, gate remotes replaced and re-programmed, garage door lifter fixed, electric fence fixed and so on. Damn but I really actually do need a very long holiday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I should be in Lagos

but I'm not and here is the story which I have been told that I have to write by the trauma counselor. Trauma counseling appears to be a booming business in south africa, just about every organisation we have to talk to offers us some.

The problem actually started on thursday or friday although I didn't know it at the time and even now, I can't really prove it, when I went to standard bank to draw foreign exchange for my tip to lagos and then for our overseas trip next week. As a general rule, we never have large amounts of cash in the house but in the few days before an overseas trip it is hard not to.

We arrived home on saturday afternoon at about 16:10 from the holmes's place and saw two men walking down our road and one's instinct warns you that there's trouble coming but they were about 100m up from our drive and aside from thinking that we're just being paranoid, we thought that ought to be enough to get in and close the gates so in we drove. Well, weren't we wrong! The next moment the doors were flung open and we were both dragged out of the car while being threatened by two 9mm pistols. Caron told me later that the she had seen the second of the two attackers just squeeze through the gate as it closed but didn't even have a chance to shout before I was dragged out. It is not a great feeling having a pistol pointed at one and even less hearing the click as the pistol is cocked, it really does chill the blood and we're still trying to get over it. Even writing about it is distinctly uncomfortable and the pistols looked a lot bigger than they really are.

The first thing they wanted was that we don't make a sound and the second was to know how many people were at home and how many dogs.

The criminals held onto each one of our arms and shepherded us around to the back door, clearly not comfortable with using the front door but since we only had front door keys we had to go there to get into the house. They gave me the front door keys back and before I opened the door I warned them that the alarm was going to go off, I didn't want it to take them by surprise and end up with a bullet in me because he got a fright. We opened the front door and the alarm went off and I carefully punched in the code, this being no time to have finger trouble. Alarm off, the taller of the two criminals used me like a shield as we moved into the lounge just in case I had lied about there being nobody at home I guess. Once they were happy that the room was clear we both had to lie face down on the floor while they took rings, watches, cell phones and wallets. This done, they wanted to get into the rest of the house but it was all locked which meant lots of close contact with the criminals in the passage as I retrieved the hall cupboard key and then the passage key from the hall cupboard. Each time I had to do something which I thought may make them nervous I would explain exactly what i was going to do and then let them tell me to do it before continuing and doing everything slowly and deliberately.

Once the hall doors were open, we were again used as shields and marched into the bedroom where we both had to lie on the floor while they drew the curtains and used shoe laces to tie our feet together and our hands behind our backs. Once we were trussed up like turkeys and totally incapacitated the tall one asked where the socks were and used a pair to put over his hands so as not to leave fingerprints. The shorter one had gloves on the whole time. The questioning started in earnest about where was the safe, where was the cash, where was the jewellery and so on. Fortunately or unfortunately we don't have a safe in the house but as soon as I told them how much I had in my wallet in USD they persisted a while but changed the focus onto jewels which we told them where to find and then after the jewels to electronic goodies. It's hard to argue with someone who has a 9mm pointed at one's back so we basically answered as truthfully as we could without volunteering anything more than necessary. As soon as we were incapacitated their cell phone started going off and they must have made or received between 4 and 8 calls during the next 10 minutes so I don't think that this was just an opportunistic hijacking, I think we were specifically targeted. While we were being tied up, the taller of the two tied my hands quite tightly and an involuntary "ouch" came out, I remember his answer quite clearly, he said "sorry, master"! Strange words indeed for a criminal who is tying me up while intimidating me at the same time with a 9mm pistol.

They wanted to know what was in the garage to which we replied a bmw320d which would, I thought, be of interest to them. A bit of to and fro occurred on the cell phone while they negotiated with whoever was on the other side as to which one to take; the mini it was which was a huge relief because getting the bmw out of the garage would have prolonged the ordeal just that much longer and we were already starting to take strain. I don't know if they were or weren't in the room but I asked caron how she was doing and she bravely replied "fine" which under the circumstances was about as good as I could have hoped for.

We heard some noises from the other side of the house and the scrunch, scrunch of them walking on the path before they came back to ask how to open the gate and how to start the mini which we told them in detail. They had also previously wanted to know if both cars had tracker on them which they both fortunately had but it didn't worry them enough to risk not taking them.

Suddenly everything went quiet and we heard the gate opening, the car reversing, the car pulling off gently and then the gate closing. At this point I thought there was a reasonable chance that we were alone and managed to get onto my feet with a bit of effort and head butted the panic button but nothing happened so I used my tongue to set the alarm and hopped through to the kitchen while caron moved around as much as she could so that the alarm went off. I got a knife out of the kitchen drawer which is a lot more difficult than it sounds and went back to the bedroom where Caron had managed to get one of her hands free enough to hold the knife and cut the shoe string. On the way back to the bedroom the phone rang which I thought was ADT responding to the alarm but I couldn't answer it at the time. From there on it didn't take more than a minute or two for us to be completely free and get onto the phone to call ADT, police and tracker.

We were no longer victims but survivors now!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Road rage continued again!

I turned up at court at the appointed time only to find a notice that all cases have been transferred to another court so I went to that one and sat at the back waiting for my case to be called but after a couple of hours of nothing I thought I should check that I was really at the right place which, as it turns out, I wasn't. The time spent watching the wheels of justice move, although 'move' is entirely the incorrect adjective, was not without benefit to me. I now understand why we're in such a mess, all the magistrate or judge or whatever she was did was postpone and transfer cases. What an utter waste of everyone's time and because everyone knows it; people don't take it seriously and just use any old excuse to not appear which results in a postponement.

My experience, thus far, of the police and justice system is that it is more the justice system that is broken rather than the police. The police also have their challenges but right now it looks like the justice system is incompetent and incompetence over a long period of time leads to irrelevance which is exactly what is happening in south africa. Since the justice system isn't seen to be dispensing justice it leads to frustration from the victims and eventually statements like 'Just shoot the criminals if you get the chance' by one of our politicians or was it assistant to the someone or other.

Back to my story, I was then told to go and speak to whoever was in an office opposite court one which I did. At the end of my explanation as to what happened, the prosecutor simply told me that he wasn't going to prosecute and that I could just go. I think that he's seen this tit-for-tat type of charge before. I now wait with baited breath to find out what is going to happen to my case against the bmw driver but given my experience of the courts today, I should unbait my breath because it is going to take a long, long time and may never actually happen.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Road rage continued

On thursday, the day after the incident, I received a call from the police requesting that I come into the police station because they wanted to clear some things up which I did at about 16:30 to be informed that they had to arrest me! This was a bit of a surprise, apparently the driver of the bmw had laid a charge of reckless and negligent driving against me. I think it was just in an effort to get back at me for laying an assault charge against him but it just goes to show that if one decides to wrestle with pigs, one can't expect to come away spotless. Being arrested was a bit of a novel experience having avoided it for 43 years but the police were very polite and just went through the motions as quickly and painlessly as possible and I had to turn up at court on the friday morning. My shiner has really blossomed in the last day and there are some quite fetching colours starting to make their appearance. I took some photo's with my cell phone which I would have posted if it wasn't for the events of the following week.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Road rage Strikes back ...

It has taken me little while to put this down in writing but on the 11th of this month I was involved in a road rage incident; apparently south africans are the world road rage champions.

I was driving my motorcycle between the stationary traffic and as the traffic pulled off I pulled into one of the gaps which naturally form as traffic starts but the bmw driver behind me, instead of driving at a normal distance decided to tailgate me. Having someone tailgate one when one is in a car is plain annoying but having someone do it to you when you're on a motorcycle is just downright dangerous. I couldn't speed up because of the cars in front and pulling left so the moron can squeeze past on the right is very dangerous so I gently put the back brake on, not so much to slow down as that would have been plain stupid but just enough to get the brake light to go on so he would back off. Needless to say (now!) this just infuriated him and his antics to get past me just got worse. At about this time the road ahead and to my left cleared so I pulled into the left hand lane so he could overtake which he did at a furious rate but I think he was so busy shouting at me that he didn't see that the traffic ahead had stopped at the next set of lights and he only just missed going into the back of the car stopped at the traffic lights but in doing so he swerved into my lane and across my line. I had fallen back by this time so this was all happening in front of me so when I pulled up on his left hand side I hammered on his window with my fist and gave him a piece of my mind which wasn't very polite at all but at the end of the day it was only words and there weren't any threats made. I should have known better given the way the idiot drove but sometimes I just can't keep quiet. He took this very badly and got out of his car and walked around the back of it and up to the back of the motorcycle. I was looking at him over my right shoulder when the first punch arrived; I can remember thinking "What does he think he's doing trying to punch someone with a helmet on!" and it was a really big surprise to find that a fist fits neatly into the slot that the visor normally covers. I tried to duck as best I could but there wasn't really anywhere to go because the robot was red so I took a bit of a beating to the back of the helmet before he got bored and got back into his car. I pulled forward and memorised his number plate and drove off to work. Another motorcyclist pulled up beside me at the next traffic lights to ask if I was ok because there was blood dripping out from the bottom of my helmet from the one punch which made it through.

When I got to work I went and washed up and sat quietly for a while trying to decide whether or not to press charges and at the end of this I decided that this could not go unpunished. It is not acceptable to deck someone no matter what they've said so I went off to the police to lay a charge before going to casualty to have the cuts stitched up. Two cuts and three stitches in the one and a couple of hours later I was sporting a really impressive shiner.