In Their Own Words – Family Perils 2
In a previous edition of the show, we shared memories of those who as younger children found themselves involved in a robbery or break in, and they shared their memories of what happened on those occasions.
There was a huge wave of responses to those stories, both saying how they had helped people deal with their own situations, and also offering their own tales. So we are pleased to present another set of tales today, starting with Amelia, who remembered a visit nearly sixty years ago...
I grew up in small town America – Daddy was a bank manager, and Mummy was a leading light of the local social circuit. I remember this day very clearly because we had the day off school. I remember I had on a peach coloured nightdress with long sleeves that went down to the floor, and matching slippers. There was also a ribbon in my hair, holding it back as I went in to see Mummy.
Mummy also had a peach nightgown on, put while mine had a little collar and was buttoned up, hers had a collar that looked like two wings, with a tie neck just under it. Like me, she had light brown hair, but hers was loose.
She had a breakfast tray next to her, and I sat on the bed as we talked about what we were going to do that day. She then told me I needed to go and get washed, and then put on my clothes for the day – but that was when our plans got changed suddenly.
I opened the door to see a man standing there, wearing a grey suit, white shirt, black tie and black shoes. He looked at me, and then at Mummy, as he told me to go and sit with her. That was when I saw that he had a gun in his hand, so I ran over and let Mummy hug me as he closed the door and looked at us.
Mummy asked him what he wanted, as I put my head against her chest. He said he wanted her jewellery, and then smiled at me as he said he’d have to make sure we could not raise the alarm for a little while.
Kneeling down, he told me to turn round and look at Mummy, and when I did this he took my hands behind my back. I felt him use something that felt like string to tie my wrists together, as Mummy kept talking to me, and told me it would be all right.
I felt him give it a little tug before he stood up, and told me to open my mouth. I looked at Mummy, who nodded as he rolled up some cloth and pulled it between my lips, tying the ends together at the base of my neck before he said I was a good and brave girl, and told me to lie down on Mummy’s bed.
Once I did so, h took another length of what I now saw was curtain cord, and used it to tie Mummy’s wrists together behind her back. He then told her to sit down, which she did on the side of the bed as he took another length of cord from his pocket, and used it to tie my ankles together.
I watched as he asked Mummy where she kept her jewels, and she told me, talking to me as he found and put them in a bag, and telling me we were going to be all right. He then took a pink chiffon scarf from Mummy’s wardrobe, rolled that in a band and pulled the band between her lips as well, Mummy closing them over it as he tied the ends under her hair. She then lay on her side as she looked at me, and I watched the man use one more length of cord to tie her ankles together.
He then left, Mummy rubbing her lips on my cheek as we lay there, and I giggled. At the time, I thought it was all like a great big game, and I wasn’t scared at all.
Eventually, Mummy managed to get her wrists free, and she untied me, both of us taking the cloths from our mouths before she called the police. Daddy was really glad we were all right, and hugged us both when he came in.
Somehow, that made me braver if it ever happened again – and it did...
Our second tale comes from a few years later, when Beatlemania was starting to sweep the world, and for a ten year old girl called Barbara in Hertfordshire had a surprise with her mother...
I always remember my mother had short, straight black hair, while in 1964 I had the same colour of hair. Like many girls my age, however, I wore it long. The day I’m thinking of was in the early summer, and my dad was at his office while Mum and I relaxed at home.
We liked to dress the same way, and I always remember that particular day we both had on a sleeveless green dress with a round collar. It was made of a material with alternate stripes of lime and olive green, and had a three layered waist. The only real difference was Mum’s skirt went down and covered her knees, while mien flared out more and came to just above my knees.
We both also had headscarves of the same material on, tied under our chins, and green shoes, flat in my case but Mum’s had a small heel. We’d been out to the park, and were sitting at the table having lunch when there was a knock on the front door.
Mum told me to finish my drink as she went to see who it was, and I nodded, drinking my milk as she went out to the front door. I remember taking my time, and wondering where she had got to, so I put my glass by the sink and walked into the hallway.
I could hear Mum talking to someone, so I went into the front room – and saw Mum kneeling on the floor in front of our big seat. A man was standing behind her, wearing jeans and a jumper, and he seemed to be doing something to her wrists.
I asked him what he was doing, and Mum looked round with a real look of fear – which was when someone put their hand over my mouth, and told me to be quiet, I would be next.
I could only watch as the first man kept doing what he was doing – and then I saw he had a ball of string in his hands, and he had used it to tie Mum’s wrists together behind her back. He was now rolling the string out, and moved her ankles together before he wound the string around and between them. I could hear her crying, but I couldn’t say anything as whoever was behind me had their hand over my mouth.
The man then took the scarf off Mum’s head, shook it loose and rolled it into a band, before he tied it round her head, the ends secured at the back of her neck.
Looking round, he came over and told me to be quiet, then walked me over to the big seat and made me kneel next to Mum. He then took my hands behind my back, and as I felt the string pulling them together I turned my head and asked Mum if she was all right.
She turned and looked at me, her red lips closed over the green band, and nodded as I felt the man tie my wrists together, and then use the string to tie my ankles as well.
When he had done that, he reached round and untied my scarf, and then pulled the rolled up band against my mouth. I guessed Mum had opened her mouth, so I did as well, and tasted the cloth on my tongue as it went between my teeth. He tied it so that my hair was caught underneath, and then he said to stay where we were and not move.
I was too scared by that time to do anything, and I could see Mum was scared as well, so we stayed where we were, listening to the man and whoever had held me as they moved round the house. We then heard the front door open and close, as Mum managed to sit down, her legs under her skirt.
She nodded to me to do the same, and as I did so I realised the string had been left between my wrists and ankles. It was slack enough to get into a seated position like Mum, but not slack enough so that we could stand.
All we could do was sit there, trying to talk to each other until Dad got home...
In the case of Barbara, when the police were called it was discovered that several items of jewellery and coins were taken. The use of string as a binding implement was not unknown of at the time, as was rope and other forms of cord.
A few years later, eleven year old Margaret was at home with her mother when they encountered their own robbers...
When this happened, Mum was working as a receptionist at a hotel, while Dad worked as a teacher in a school, which was what made what happened that night so unusual...
We were sitting at home, watching television before I went up to bed. Dad was wearing a v-necked jumper over his shirt and pants, while Mum was wearing a pale blue jacket and knee length skirt. The jacket had short sleeves, and she liked to wear a daisy shaped brooch at her neck. She always had bad eyesight, and had her glasses on.
I remember I was wearing a kind of shot smock dress – blue with little white polka checks. It had sleeves that came to just above my wrists, and a lace collar and cuffs.
Anyway – it was early evening, and we were watching Pinky and Perky if I remember right. It might have been Basil Brush, but it was a family show. Which is why when the door was forced open, and the two men came in, we were so shocked.
They were wearing overalls, and had funny black things on their heads that covered everything, except for their eyes and mouths. Dad stood up, but then one of them made him sit down again, holding his stomach as he told us to keep quiet and do as they said.
Our house had one big room downstairs, with the dining table and chairs in the back, so he stood and looked at us as Mum hugged me, while the second man brought two dining chairs in. Mum and I were then made to sit in the, while the second man took Dad by the arm and made him walk out of the room.
The man who stayed with us told us to be quiet, and then walked behind the chairs. Mum watched as he made me put my hands between the slats in the chair back, and then he used what I later realised was a cut length of washing line to tie my wrists together, and then tie them to the chair back.
How did I know it was washing line? Because while I tried to move my arms apart, I looked over and saw he had made Mum put her arms round the chair back, and was tying her own wrists together.
He then tied those to Mum’s chair back as well, and walked in front of us. My own legs were hanging off the end of the chair, so he put my ankles together and used another length of washing lien to tie them together. I could feel his hands on my legs as he took the rope around and between them, as Mum kept pleading with him to leave me alone.
He then moved to her, and tied her ankles together before he secured them to the front leg of the chair. I looked as if she was at a garden party – save that she could not move, and I couldn’t get my arms out of the chair back.
What I didn’t understand, and Mum kept asking, is why they were there, and what they wanted from us. I mean, we didn’t have very much if anything.
So when the second man came out, and they had a conversation in the corner, I could see they were upset about something. Indeed, I heard them say a few words that I cannot repeat here. I could see Mum shaking her head as well, before the man came back and I watched him take Mum’s watch, earrings and rings off her.
While he did this, the second man took a roll of brown sticking plaster from his pocket. He then tore a strip off, and pressed it down over my mouth from my left cheek to the right side of my jaw. He pressed another strip down the other way, so that it formed an X that managed to stop my opening my mouth.
Mum had the same thing done to her, as we looked at each other and the two men ran out of the house. As they did so, they ripped the telephone away from the wall, and that was it.
We sat there, trying to get our wrists free, until we saw Dad walk down the stairs. He looked as if he had been struggling as well, as he walked in, looked at us and then pulled the plaster from our lips.
He then cut us free, before he called the police. That’s when we learned the men had actually forced their way into the wrong house – there was another family with our name elsewhere in town, and that was the family they had been looking for.
I actually felt sorry for them – because they were visited later that night as well...
The 1970s were a strange time for fashions and also for the way families interacted. For Rowan, 1974 was the year when, as a thirteen year old, she and her mother were very fashionable – and the victims of a robbery...
OH dear God, yes – we did wear some strange things as a mother and father. One of those had to be the crochet tops and pants – which I remember for the reasons you talked about with other people.
I was thirteen, with long light brown hair I always had in bunches then. Mum had long blonde hair, and on this day we had identical clothes on – white clothes, made by crocheting wool, with a long sleeved top and bell bottom pants. The top had a brown band at the collar, and given it was crocheted, we both had bras and panties of white underneath. It was also my first bra – for what that meant.
I also had on white socks and black shoes, while Mum was wearing white soft shoes with a block heel. Anyway, we were in the conservatory of the house we were living in, when the man came in through the door.
He was wearing a brown suede jacket, the collar of his floral shirt over the jacket collar, and bellbottom jeans, but the really noticeable thing about him was the scarf he had wrapped over the bottom half of his face – and the big knife he was carrying in his hand as he looked at us.
Mum grabbed me and held me close, and asked who he was. He just looked at us, and asked if anyone else was in the house. When Mum shook her head, he told us to walk in front of him, and go to Mum’s bedroom.
Mum told me to take her hand and be brave, as we walked back into the house and up the stairs, the man watching us all the time. I saw he had a bag in his other hand, which he kept a tight grip on as we went up.
When we went into Mum and Dad’s bedroom, he told us both to lie face down on the bed, with our arms by our sides. I did as he said, wondering what he was going to do with the knife, before I felt him cross my wrists behind my back, and he used rope to tie my wrists tightly together. When he was done, I could only wriggle my fingers, as I felt him cross my ankles and tie them together as well.
When he had finished, I heard Mum complaining, and as I turned my head I could see he had crossed her wrists behind her back and was tying them together as well. I watched what he did – wrapping the rope around her wrists, and then taking the two lengths between her arms and tying them off out of reach of her fingers.
He tied her ankles together in the same way, and then rolled us both onto our backs. Looking at me, he made me sit up, and then tied some rope around my tummy and arms to keep them locked into my side. He also tied my legs together below my knees, before he lifted me up.
There was a large walk in wardrobe in the room, the doors of which were open, so he took me in there and sat me on the floor, before he took one of Mum’s scarves and rolled it into a band, before he tied a knot in it. Telling me to open my mouth, I felt the knot on my tongue as he pushed it in, and then he tied the band round my head, before he told me to stay still and closed the door.
I could hear him talking to Mum outside, but I was too scared to do anything other than stay there, and hope I wasn’t going to be stuck in there for too long. After a little while, the door opened and he came in, picking me up and taking me to the bed. Mum was lying on her side, and I could see he had used a second scarf to keep her quiet in the same way as me.
She also had her legs tied like mine, but she had two bands of rope holding her arms to her sides, sitting above and below her chest. Her eyes were red, and I could see her mascara had run down her cheeks, but she tried to smile as I was laid next to her, on my side.
We both looked at the man left, and then Mum started to kiss my head and cheeks. I could feel the knot of her scarf as well, but I was happy she was all right, and glad to see me.
We were there for at least two hours – he had left the radio no and we heard the news twice – before a policeman came in and untied us...
We had a few stories of incidents when people were on holiday and had an unfortunate encounter – as Elizabeth remembered...
Mum just wanted us to get out of London – it was the time of the Royal Wedding, Charles and Diana, and she was fed up with all the hoopla around that. I was eleven, and living alone with Mum, so it wasn’t major hassle to pile some things into our VW Camper van and head off to the Norfolk Broads.
This one day, we had found a nice little place to stop and spend the night. I remember I was wearing a pair of denim dungarees, the legs coming just below my knees, and a vest underneath, while Mum had on a white vest and a pair of checked shorts. An old brown jacket was over that, while we were both bare foot, our long brown hair platted into pigtails.
Anyway – as I said, we had parked in the spot, having got permission from the land owner to do so. It was just off the road, in a forest clearing, and Mum had managed to get a small Primus stove going to cook some tea. I had gone for a walk through the trees, enjoying the feel of the grass under my feet, and was making my way back to the van when I thought I heard a noise behind me.
I figured it was a fox or something, so I kept walking, soon coming back to the clearing – but just before I came out of the trees, someone grabbed me from behind and put their hand over my mouth, stopping me from calling out.
I was made to walk forward, Mum asking if I had enjoyed my walk. When I didn’t answer, she turned round and then stood up, as I heard a young male voice telling her to sit down and not panic. I wondered who it was who was holding me, as he said he didn’t want to hurt us – he just wanted something to eat and a place to spend a while undisturbed.
Mum nodded, and promised to do as he said, as he let me go and I ran over to hug her round the waist. I then saw him – he was no older than my Uncle Steve, who was in the last year of school, and wore a blue denim jacket and jeans with a blue shirt underneath.
He told us to sit down, and not to move, but Mum offered to cook him some food, promising I wouldn’t do anything, so he agreed and sat down. As they talked, I discovered he had escaped from a Borstal – Mum told me later that was a prison for young men – and was trying to get away.
It sounded like something I’d seen on an Enid Blyton show on kid’s telly, at least at the time, but Mum just nodded and we shared our food and drink with him.
It eventually started to get dark, and I stretched and yawned. The man then said he had to make sure we didn’t raise the alarm, but he’d make sure someone could find us. I wondered what he meant by that, but Mum nodded in agreement, and said we wouldn’t change for bed that night.
He then asked a funny question – did we have any duct tape? Mum nodded and went to the van, putting things away while he sat with his hand on my shoulder, and then I saw her bring out a big roll of the silver tape she sometimes used to make repairs.
The man took the roll, and told me to put my hands behind my back, before I heard him rip the end of the roll free and use it to hold my wrists together. He then wrapped the tape round my arms and body, so that I really could not move them, while Mum opened my sleeping bag up inside the van.
When the man had finished, he told me to walk over to the van and sit on my sleeping bag. When I had done this, I watched as he taped my ankles together, and then taped my legs together above and below my knees. Mum then helped me it lie down and zipped my sleeping bag up, before the man tore off a strip of tape and pressed it firmly down over my lips, which helped me to stay quiet.
Mum then took off her coat, and I watched as the man did the same thing to her – taping her wrists behind her back, and her arms to her sides, before he sat on her own sleeping bag and he taped her legs in the same three places. She then wriggled down as he closed the sleeping bag over her, and put some tape over her mouth as well. We managed to lie on our sides, facing each other as our heads rested on our pillows, and look at each other while it got darker, and my eyes closed.
When I woke up, it was because someone opened the side door of the camper van, and I could see we were in some sort of car park. It turned out that, while we were asleep, the man had driven the van to a Little Chef, and left it in the car park before he ran off. It was certainly an experience...
From one end of society to another, as five years later a nine year old Zara was at her mother’s work place...
It was a school holiday, and Mummy had no choice but to take me into work with her for the morning. So I had brought a colouring book and some pencils with me, and was sitting at a coffee area in her office while she was meeting clients.
Mummy was a lawyer, and was wearing a white blouse with a knee length camel brown skirt, and a black waistcoat. She also had a thin scarf the same colour as her skirt with white dots, tied loosely round her neck, and brown shoes.
I had on a pair of khaki bib dungarees, with a white blouse, and white socks with black Mary Jane shoes. I was starting to get bored, and hoping that Mummy would be finished soon, when her last client of the day came in.
She was a tall woman, with long brown hair, and smiled at me as she sat down, putting her large handbag to the side of the chair. I went back to my colouring, not really paying much attention to the conversation, when I heard Mummy saying “oh god, no...”
I looked up to see the woman had taken what looked like a water pistol from her bag, and had got out of her chair as she looked at Mum, then at me. She told me to come over and sit on Mummy’s lap, which I did, wondering why Mummy was afraid.
The woman then said she was going to help me and Mummy to play a game, where we had to try and get out of the way she was going to make sure we stayed in the chair. From her bag, she took out a roll of black tape, and she told me to put my hands together as if I was praying at church. When I did this, she used the black tape to hold my wrists together, and then told Mummy to hug me, before she used the tape to hold her wrists together as well as she held me.
She then knelt to the side of the chair, and used the tape to secure Mummy’s ankles together. She also taped my ankles together, and then taped my legs together below my knees, the tape sticking to my trousers.
My legs were hanging over Mummy’s, so I lifted them up as she taped Mummy’s legs together, and then told me to move back a bit, before she passed the tape round both of us and the chair.
When we were done, she asked Mummy where a file was, Mummy nodding to a cabinet. The woman went over, opened the drawer and took a file out, putting it in a bag before she told me to put my lips together.
She then put a few strips of tape over my mouth, making a black band that kept t closed, and as I looked up she did the same to Mummy, before she went out of the office. Mummy started to wriggle like mad after that, so I joined in, having what I thought was great fun until Mummy’s secretary came back, and nearly fainted when she saw us sitting there.
I later found out the woman was a bad woman who wanted something Mummy had, and she’d done it to us to stop us telling anyone what she had done, but at the time – it was honestly fun...
For our final tale, we come to a few years ago, and eleven year old Kylie returned home to her home with her mother to find someone waiting...
Mamma had picked me up from school, and we walked back through the park, enjoying the spring sunshine. My school uniform was a white polo shirt with a little school crest on the left breast, a grey skirt, blue knee length socks and black shoes. I also had a black Alice band holding back my blonde hair, and my school rucksack on my back.
Mamma was wearing a white blouse, the top couple of buttons open, faded blue jeans and brown sandals, her sunglasses keeping the sun out of her blue eyes, as she laughed with me while I told her about my day.
Honestly, there was no sign of what was going to happen, as Mamma opened our day and we walked in. When we went into the front room, however, we could see someone had been looking through the cupboards – the doors were open, and from the look on Mamma’s face it was obvious something was wrong.
Just what was wrong became clear when I screamed – a man with a stocking over his head had appeared behind Mamma, and had put a gloved hand over her mouth. He looked at me, and told me to be quiet or Mamma and I might get hurt, so I stopped screaming as Mamma tried to talk to him.
He then told me to go into the front room, and he made Mamma walk in as well, kicking the door closed behind himself. I could now see a large brown bag on the floor, as he told me to stand still, and Mamma to sit on a chair, with her hands on her head.
Mamma kept talking to me, telling me to be brave and everything would be all right, as he opened the back, and took out several ropes. He then walked behind me, and he pulled my wrists behind my back. I bit on my lower lip as I felt him start to tie my wrists together, the rope biting into my wrists as he made sure they stay together. He then put some rope round my arms, pulling them into my sides as he wound it round me in two places, and tied it off behind my back.
He then walked me over to the long seat, making me sit down as he crossed my ankles. I could now see it was white rope, as he pulled it tightly around and between my legs, securing them together before he did the same to my legs below my knees.
He them walked over to Mamma, and tied her up in the same way as she sat in the chair. I could see the ropes holding her more and more tightly, as she wriggled round and kept trying to smile at me.
He then turned on the television, and walked back to the bag, before he came back over to me. I could see he had two things in his hands – a folded cloth, and a roll of white tape.
Mamma told me to do what the man said, as he told me to open my mouth. As I did so, he pushed the cloth in there, waiting until I closed my mouth over it before he tore a long strip of the tape from the roll and pressed it down over my mouth. I tried to move my lips and speak, but I discovered it wasn’t possible as he did the same thing to Mamma. When he had finished, I saw the shape of her lips under the tape, as she managed to smile at me.
He then did something else – he made me lie on my stomach, and pulled my legs back, as I felt him tie rope between my ankles and then to the ropes holding my arms in place. I managed to roll onto my side and watch as he made Mamma lie on the floor with a pillow for her head, and then pulled her legs back as well, the rope from her ankles to her ropes on her chest.
That was how he left us, as he left, and it was hours before Daddy came back...
We’ve run out of time for tonight, but if you have any other tales to tell, do not hesitate to contact us...