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!

1 comment:

Heidi and Darrell Bergesen and kids said...

Roly, very sad to hear about your terrible experience, but very relieved that both of you are OK.
Enjoy your trip overseas, and if you want to detour past Abu Dhabi and stay for a few months, feel free!