Heist at the Harrogate Tearooms.
Harrogate in North Yorkshire is home to one of the most famous traditional tearooms in the world. One late summer day just a few months ago, saw the most eventful day in its long and illustrious history. The events of the day went something like this:
Miriam James arrived for work looking forward to another day managing the esteemed establishment in leafy Harrogate. She had managed the tearooms for 8 years now and was known in the area with the regular clientele, who were generally wealthy local worthies and expected high standards. Miriam was used to delivering these standards.
This meant presenting herself, her staff and her premises to their finest every day. Today, she had dressed very smartly, with cream satin blouse, herring bone skirt which lay just above her knees and atop some very fine black stockings, she wore a pair of Victorian inspired leather boots, with delicate laces. She wore a striking blue satin scarf round her neck, which draped over her left shoulder.
She arrived early, as usual, around one hour prior to opening time and about half and hour before she expected her staff to arrive. After unlocking and disabling the alarm, she set about her preparations much as she did every day.
Shortly after her arrival, she was alerted to a knocking at the side door. She saw 2 gentlemen who she imagined to be deliverymen and answered. One of the men was carrying a cardboard box, the other a clipboard with a pen attached by string and she offered to them to come inside in order to sign the paperwork and check the package.
As she peered into the box upon the suggestion of one of the men, she saw a pile of what looked like a bundle of scarves, but with a shiny metal object sitting on top of them. As she stared at the item, one of the men picked it up and confirming her suspicions announced very quietly but firmly, “this is a gun, it is loaded, and you are being robbed. Try anything stupid and we will use this on you. Do not say a word; answer our questions with a nod or a shake of the head. Do you understand?”
Miriam nodded very slowly with a look of fear behind her expensive black-rimmed square glasses.
Miriam was motioned towards the kitchen area by the man holding the gun, whilst the other man ensured the side door was securely locked. Once he had completed this task, the man began moving some of the stout dining chairs used in the tearoom, to the kitchens where Miriam was silently being watched under the threat of the gun. The man had moved 8 chairs into a line, in the one main corridor of the kitchen, with the backs of the chairs lined up against the various cookers and fridges.
Miriam was instructed by the man to act normally when her staff came in, to ask them to dress in their uniforms and to convene for a meeting in the kitchen. One of the men would observe the interaction to ensure all went as planned, pretending to be a delivery driver waiting on the manageress being free prior to obtaining a signature.
The first 2 young women arrived a little early. Miriam did as she was told and the 2 women kitted themselves out in their outfits. They both wore exactly the same starched white cotton blouses, held by a brooch high on the neck, a starched white apron bearing the name of the tearoom, black straight skirt, black tights and flat black shoes.
As they followed Miriam into the kitchen, they were more than a little shocked to be met by the threat of a gun and before panic took hold, the second man strode in behind them demanding silence and Miriam herself advised the terrified staff to remain quiet to prevent the situation from taking a turn for the worse. The young women were requested to sit down by the gun-wielding intruder.
“Now then Miriam, it is Miriam isn’t it? Now then Miriam, there should be more staff arriving soon, please ensure each arrival goes just as smoothly.”
Before long there was another knock, then another and before long there were a further 4 young women donning identical pristine, starched outfits and after being held until all were ready at once, they were led into the kitchen. They were greeted by the same receiving party, one man following behind, a man brandishing a gun and Miriam apologising for the situation that greeted them and imploring that the terrified staff relax and comply with the men’s wishes.
With the seven women seated, the situation was remarkably calm, but one seat remained unoccupied.
“Where is the cook?” asked the gunman, who was the only one of the intruders to speak that day.
“She will be here shortly,” said Miriam trying to sound as calm as possible, “she is always a little late.”
Sure enough, there was a knocking and Miriam was ushered once more to receive her staff. She was under strict instructions this time to double lock the premises and to attach a pre-produced laminated note, handed to her by the silent one from his clipboard.
The note was well produced and very politely apologies for the fact that the premises would have to remain closed that day due to a bereavement suffered by the owners.
As the cook was hanging her coat in the staff area, Miriam hung up the note. The cook, dressed in her jeans and sweater prior to getting changed was also ushered to the ‘meeting’ in the kitchen.
She tried to turn and run at the sight that greeted her, but she was roughly grabbed and pushed back into the kitchen by the silent intruder.
With all eight women seated and with the threat of a gun, the man who was doing the talking addressed the gathering.
“You are being robbed. You have something we want. Having gained control, we will take what we want and leave you here. The authorities will be alerted once we are safely out of the area. Do you all understand?”
The question was greeted by a mixture of whimpering replies of y-y-yes and some nodding as the women exchanged worried glances.
“Firstly, I need the key to the stockroom. Miriam, will you be so grateful as to acquire this item and bring it to me. DO NOT try anything silly.”
Miriam dutifully went to a small drawer in the kitchens and handed over the key.
“Now then ladies. My colleague has a passion in life he is about to enact, for your enjoyment.”
“Please go ahead and indulge your passion. That’s right, the passion you have for tying up pretty women.”
There were squeals from the seated gathering and cook stood up to confront, only to be harshly pushed into the chair.
“Quiet!” demanded the man.
“This will happen. If you comply, you will not be hurt.”
The silent man then motioned to cook to sit alongside Miriam at the end of the line of chairs, so she would be as far away from the door as possible and brought his box of fabric into the kitchen.
The first woman was asked to stand up and she did so very tentatively, assisted by the man who was to tie her up.
“I’m sorry…..” but Miriam’s attempted apology for the situation was not allowed to finish, abruptly ended by the gunman smacking his gun down on a stainless steel surface loudly.
The woman’s hands were held behind her back, crossed and tied using a strip of fabric about four feet long and four inches, which had been ripped from a white sheet. About 2 feet of the fabric hung down from her wrists after the knot was tightened and some cinching was done. A further strip of the same material was used to tie above her elbows, pulling her shoulders back and accentuating her breasts and branded apron.
“Sit down my dear, with your hands behind the back of the chair,” she was commanded.
No sooner had she done so, than the man placed a small folded bandana in between her ankles and squeezed them together.
“He likes young women and likes to protect their tied ankles from getting hurt,” came the unusual explanation.
The man then used a soft scarf to tie her ankles together, then a folded headscarf was used to tie her thighs together just above the knee.
A further long scarf was used around her midriff and wound round the back of the chair in order to secure her to it.
“Very nicely done sir. Shall we move on to the next one?” said the man, still brandishing the weapon.
The second young woman was afforded exactly the same treatment. The gunman smiled throughout this process and took plenty of time to observe the expressions of the women who had yet to face the binding.
“See? It won’t hurt you and we are only tying you up so we can escape the scene.”
“Why are you doing this? You won’t get away with it,” said Miriam quietly but resolutely.
“Oh but we will, we will. Now just you remain silent, until it’s your turn. If you cause any trouble, you will be bound more tightly. Understand?”
“Sit back, relax and see how much my friend loves this part of the job.”
In a matter of minutes, there were seven women tied to their chairs, all in identical fashion, with only the cook presenting some issues to the man doing the binding. With her slightly larger frame, her upper arm tying and thigh tying presented some issues and the man was careful to straighten out the fabric so as to cause less discomfort, a fact cook didn’t seem to appreciate as she grunted her displeasure throughout. With her jeans on also, the cook did not require her ankles to be protected.
“Now then Miriam. Your turn now." My friend particularly enjoys tying up beautiful mature women like you. Let’s be having you.”
Miriam stood up at allow the very same wrist binding, with yet more of the prepared sheet. Her elbows were also tied, just as the others had suffered, which in her case put a great deal of strain on her beautiful satin blouse. The buttons strained manfully as her shoulders were pinned back. She was very gently put back into her seat and with a neatly folded bandana placed between her ankles was tied with a soft scarf with a further headscarf used for her thighs. She too was pinned to the seat by a fabric strip round her midriff.
The women were secure and the men safe to relax. For the first time since it was lifted out of the box, the man who has said every word that day put it gently down on the stainless steel surface, although pointing it rather deliberately at cook.
“Right my man, take this key and raid the stockroom.”
The silent man made several trips back and forward to the stockroom and returned each time with packets of coffee. These were not packets of any old coffee. These were packets of Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive and rare coffee. This sold for £35 a cup in the tearoom.
As the man gathered up the rare beans, the vocal member of the team explained to the gathering, for those who did not know, just why the brew was so precious. All the beans have been eaten by the rare civet of Indonesia, who digests the outer of the bean, then secretes the rest. It is this that is gathered up and when roasted, provides a magical taste, which to the learned coffee drinker, is akin to attaining nirvana.
“So that’s what you’re after,” said Miriam, “you’re collectors after the most desirable collector’s coffee in the world?”
“Quite so my dear and we are going to get clean away with it.”
“You are scum…..” said the cook, who was quickly halted by the grabbing of a gun pointed at her. Rather than finishing her sentence, the cook inhaled as if to try to cancel what she had already said.
“Have you cleared out the stock?”
The man nodded and proceeded to fill the box they had brought with them, though he tipped out a further bundle of headscarves in order to create space.
They had 12 packets of the precious cargo. Once packed, the box was folded over and sealed with some tape the man had in his pocket. A satisfying stroke of the sealing tape provided a flourish to this packing. The silent man, smiled at the ladies as he patted the cargo.
Miriam however, had noticed the pile of scarves and was somewhat concerned as to what their use might be. She had hoped they were as secure as was required by the men.
“Right, let’s make our ladies a little more comfortable prior to our getaway.”
“Please find eight strong napkins and we will go about keeping our guests silent.”
Some murmuring and general disquiet was silenced again by the threat of the gun.
The man returned and placed the napkins alongside the scarves.
Once more in order, the first young woman was approached and requested to open up nice and wide by the gunman.
She was asked once more, but refused to co-operate.
“Please dear, these men mean business, please do as they say,” said Miriam.
“Very wise my dear.”
The woman slowly opened her mouth to find the freshly starched and bleached white fabric being pushed into her mouth. Once more, the man with the gun, spent time observing the concerns evident in the others waiting to receive their treatment.
With her mouth fully packed and with still plenty of the napkin left evident, as it had proved too large to fit in completely, the woman observed the man folding over a headscarf into a band of about 4 inches. This was carefully located over her mouth and pulled tightly behind her head.
The reason for the two feet of dangling fabric from the wrist binding became evident now also, as the man pulled this forward from behind the chair and winding this around the ankle cinching, pulled her feet off the ground and secured the fabric off at the back of the chair, on a cross member just under the seat area. This effectively placed the young lady into a loose seated hogtie. The young woman was clearly extremely unhappy with the treatment, but really was in no position to do anything other than to try to relax to the situation.
There was palpable quiet amongst the seven women who awaited a similar fate.
This time however, once six women had been severely gagged and had their ankles pulled off the floor, the man went to Miriam, instead of cook.
The manageress was treated in exactly the same way and as the previous five had done, showed no resistance to the gagging. She struggled to get used to the thick napkin and before she had time to try to adjust, she was subject to the headscarf in a band, being pulled tightly across her jaws and tied tightly at the back of her neck, once the man had pushed her head forward to get access to the her neck.
She too, had her ankles hitched backwards off the floor.
As he had done with all the others, the man tying the women had smiled at them, after the completion of his work and patted them gently on the thigh.
Cook had an expression, which betrayed her surprise at not being the next to suffer the gagging and ankle tying.
“You look very worried. What is to become of you?”
“Well we have a very special surprise for you my dear.”
“I will take very great pleasure in gagging you myself.”
Cook’s eyes went skyward and she was aware of Miriam offering her what support she could in her eyes.
A napkin was bundled up and cook opened wide in preparation. It was still a great shock to her, just how full of fabric her mouth was. A scarf was prepared this time into a slightly tighter fold, of about three inches. Taking very careful aim, the man centred the scarf and pulled it back wretchedly, forcing the napkin deep into her mouth. This was tied very tightly, before a second headscarf was thickly folded and added over this.
Cook was then released from the binding round her midriff and was motioned to stand, rather than suffer the indignity of having her ankles pulled back as the others had suffered.
She was manhandled by the two men, onto the stainless steel surface and was put into a hogtie, with the excess fabric from the wrist tying.
“Right lady, you are coming with us.”
The statement was met with a great deal of attempted verbal resistance, but little sound could be heard, certainly nothing that could alert anyone of the plight of these women. The gags had been very securely applied and the women had behaved perfectly during the event.
The quiet man made off to the side door, carrying the valuable coffee. Unlocking it and checking that the coast was clear, he made his way to a van, which was down the street. The van had the livery of a carpet supplier and he dropped off the box and took a carpet about eight feet long out of the back. He manhandled this carpet back to the delivery door and knocked to enter. Both men then carried the carpet into the kitchen.
Whilst the man had been away, the other intruder had blindfolded cook with a tea towel.
The cook was then wrapped in the carpet as tightly as possible.
As she was removed from the scene, the seven tied up women could do no more than glance at each other and mew into their effective and full gags.
Pausing to say goodbye and thank you for their co-operation, the two men and the cook vanished out of the side door, locking it afterwards.
After a couple of minutes of whining and struggling, the seven women settled to their situation as best as they could, after all, they were extremely soundly tied up and gagged.
A few miles down the road, the van pulled into a secluded lay-by.
Both men assisted in untying the cook, who once with free hands, ripped the blindfold off and assisted in the removal of the gag.
“PAH….,” she uttered as she pulled out the napkin and spat little bits of cotton.
“Next time I help you pull a job, for Christ’s sake, don’t be so rough on me.”
The man who had said nothing during the raid, then added:
“Well my dear, I have had to endure many a session of role-play at your hands, from which you have trained me well and I thought I did rather well, didn’t I?”
“Well, perhaps you did my love, perhaps you did,” she reluctantly added.
“Now, in 20 miles we will meet with the baron, hand over the goods and we can take off anywhere with the money. You won’t have to work for that damned Miriam anymore, even if I find her attractive…..OUCH” said the ‘quiet’ man, as his wife elbowed him firmly in the ribs.