Looking after Baby
It has to be one of the ultimate nightmares – a young mother, confronted with an intruder, and their baby or toddler is the only other person in the house. Many times, a criminal facing this situation will turn and run – but that is not necessarily the norm, and when that does not happen it can become a very unusual situation for the robber and the person being robbed.
The stories we tell today are not where the child has been threatened to get the mother to cooperate – rather, some of the tales that reflect that not all criminals are monsters.
For our first tale, we go to Manchester, and young Felicity...
I had taken Eric for a walk through the park, just so that he got some fresh air in the autumn sun. He was about three months old at the time, and I loved the way he smiled in his pushchair as we walked along. I had on a grey jersey dress, black leggings and riding style black boots, with a peach coloured large scarf wrapped loosely round my neck and a leather jacket.
That scarf was going to play a part later, but at the time I was just enjoying the day. Eventually, however, I could see Eric was getting hungry, and in those days breast feeding in public was not as accepted as it is now, so we headed home.
When I got in the front door, I knew something was wrong – there was a breeze blowing through, and I was sure I had closed all the windows and doors before we went out. Just how wrong things were I didn’t realize at first, but then I walked into the front room – and there was a young man there, searching through our cabinets with his gloved hands.
I must have gasped, because he came over and grabbed me, telling me to be quiet or he would hurt me. I just nodded mutely, as he told me to take my coat off and sit down. Well, I felt I had no choice, so I sat down after taking my coat off, watching as he took the pair of sunglasses on my head, folded the legs, and put them to the side.
He then walked behind the chair I was sitting on, and lifted up my scarf while telling me to open my mouth at the same time. As I did so, he pulled the scarf into my mouth, and wrapped the scarf twice round my head before he secured the ends together behind my head, trapping my long light brown hair as well.
Placing my hands on my head, he then lifted up my feet up and put them on the coffee table, crossing my ankles before he took from his jacket pocket a length of cord, and started to bind my ankles tightly together. “Sorry about this,” he said as he pulled the ropes tight, “but I need to make sure you can’t raise the alarm or get away.”
“Bttmeebbe,” I said, trying to tell him about Eric – but the scarf was keeping me quiet, as he tied the ropes off and then looked at me. “Put your hands behind your back,” he said – and then he turned round as he heard Eric starting to cry.
Walking into the hallway, I wondered what he was going to do – so when he came in, looking at Eric, he smiled at me and said “I guess he’s hungry – is there a bottle of milk anywhere?”
“Nthtkshn,” I said, and then he looked at me. “Can you put your forearms together in front of you,” he eventually said, and as I nodded he watched me do that. He then gave me Eric to hold, while he tied my wrists to my elbows, and then took Eric’s little jacket off, placing it on my own.
He then went into the kitchen, leaving me to hold Eric and make funny faces at him. I could hear him doing something, and then he returned with a bottle of milk. Lifting him from my arms, I watched as he allowed Eric to have his milk, cooing and talking to him quietly as he drank, and then even winding him as he put him over his shoulder.
“Cute kid,” he said as he looked at me, and then he nestled Eric in my arms, watching as I smiled and gave my little boy a kiss on his forehead. He gurgled happily away, as the man looked at me and him, and then left the house.
My husband got back a couple of hours later, by which time Eric needed a change, and my scarf was soaking wet – but I could live with that, because we hadn’t really been hurt by the intruder.
Not in that sense anyway...
Our second tale brings us to Norfolk, and a new single mother called Holly. She was literally just back when she had an unexpected visitor.
Oh yeah – Mum had literally brought me back with Jen to the house, and she was sitting in the car seat, fast asleep as I closed the front door and sat down. I’d travelled back wearing a large black and white shawl over a leather jacket, both of which were over the back of a seat, along with my large black scarf. Next to the seat on the floor were my tan leather boots, leaving me in an oversized black jumper and crimson tights.
So I was lying on my couch, relaxing, and wondering how long my darling daughter was going to sleep when I heard a knock on the door. I stood up, stretched, walked into the hallway and opened the door – and then stepped back as the young woman looked at me, the sunlight glinting off the blade of the knife she was holding.
“Keep quiet,” she said as a second girl ran upstairs, and then she took my arm and walked me back into the front room. She looked at Jen, and then said “how old?”
“Two... Two days old. I only just got back with her - please...”
“Then keep quiet,” she said as she made me lie face down, and took a roll of black tape from her pocket – using it to secure my wrists together behind my back, and to tape my ankles together side by side.
I turned onto my side as the second girl looked in – and then the one who had taped me up picked up a pair of nail scissors, and left it on the coffee table, before they ran off.
It took me a little effort, but I managed to kneel on the floor and use the scissors to cut the tape away from my wrists, and then cut my ankles free – just as Jan woke up and looked at me. You can bet I picked her up and hugged her after that...
While Holly was able to escape relatively easily, other young women were not so lucky – but even then, the intruder sometimes went to some lengths to ensure both the mother and the baby were happy. In a little while, one tale will perfectly illustrate that, but for the moment let us listen to Samantha’s tale...
David was about four months old when this happened – we had taken a holiday cottage by the coast, and my husband had gone to watch a football match at the local pub. David and I had gone down to the beach – I remember it was a chilly day, so I had put on a grey woollen poncho over a white top with thin blue stripes, black leggings and burgundy leather boots. My son had on a grey jacket, pants and shoes.
Anyway, we had a great time down there, as David sat with me and played on the sand. Eventually, however, we went back to the cabin, and I opened up the changing bag so that I could change David’s nappy. The routine is simple – remove his trousers, unfasten and remove the soiled diaper, put it in the clear bag and then put in the wipes as well, and put on the new nappy.
It was while I was fastening that I felt the hand on my shoulder, and heard a young man say “don’t panic – I’m not going to hurt you or the little one, I just need some money and to stop you raising the alarm for a while. Put his pants back on, and then take off the poncho.”
I nodded, wondering what he would do and praying he wouldn’t hurt David, as I pulled his pants back onto him and then removed my poncho.
“That’s good,” the voice said, “now pick him up. Does he need feeding?”
“No, not yet,” I whispered quietly.
At which point, David started to cry in the way that means he wanted some milk – and I was breast feeding him.
“Okay,” the voice said quietly, “there’s a rocking chair over there – pick him up and go and sit on it.”
I did as whoever this was asked, and as I sat down I lifted my top and eased my bra cup down, moving so that David could latch on. I could hear a ripping noise, and looking down I saw the intruder was using some duct tape to secure my waist to the bars at the back of the chair.
When he had finished that, I heard him say “keep your lips together,” before there was another ripping sound, and I felt him press a length of the tape over my mouth. Two more followed, as David kept feeding himself.
I could hear the man moving round, but I was focusing on David, and making sure he had as much as he wanted. I was also glad he hadn’t secured my arms, because when he detached himself I had to wind him.
I then adjusted my top as the man came back in, and I saw a denim sleeved arm come round and tickle David’s chin.
“Cute kid – do not remove the tape or call for help for fifteen minutes. If you can’t do that, I’ll tape your arms to the chair and put your son on the floor. Which will it be?”
“Lldsssusaa,” I mumbled.
“Good,” was the only response and then I heard footsteps walking away. All I could do was rock to and fro, David falling asleep in my arms. I must have done so as well – the next thing I remember is my husband saying “what the...” and then peeling the tape from my mouth...
The intruder had merely stolen some money from Samantha’s purse – in the case of Anne, however, the intruder had a different approach...
Linda was fast asleep in her chair – a fact I was glad of, because the last thing a ten month old girl needed was to be in the situation I was in. We’d got back from the nursery an hour ago, and my husband was not due back for another hour – a fact the masked women who had walked in when I took my coat of were taking advantage of.
Fortunately, Linda slept through the whole time – how one of them had taken her, in her car seat, into the front room and watched her while the other one pulled my hands behind my back and tied them together with rope. Given the clothes I was wearing – a grey woollen dress over a white long sleeved top, dark grey leggings and grey Ugg boots – I was glad nothing was likely to burst open or become visible.
Anyway, the woman forced me to hand over my jewellery, money and things, before she rolled up one of my scarves and forced me to allow her to use it as a cleave gag, keeping my tongue down as I was marched back downstairs. The second girl stood up as I was made to sit on the couch, and she used some rope to bind my ankles together.
I thought that was all she was going to do – but then she produced a second length, and tied my legs together below my knees. At the same time, the second woman walked behind me, and I suddenly felt my arms being drawn knot my sides as she tied more rope around me.
Which is where I was by that point. By the time they had finished, all I could do was wriggle round and try to say something – and that was the moment when Linda woke up and looked at me. She giggled, and then started to cry. I could see why – her favourite toy was a brown lion cub which I had been holding when they came in, and dropped on the floor next to her.
“Dnntcrrelndde,” I mumbled, and then I watched as the second woman bent down and picked up the toy – and she started to play with Linda, making her laugh as she waved the cub around and then giving it to her to hug.
She then sniffed and looked at me, and I looked at the changing bag. As she nodded, the woman who had walked me round made me stand up, and half walk, half jump to the doorway, and then up the stairs, before she helped me to lie down on the bed. As I turned onto my side, I saw she was arranging the pillows beside me, and I wondered what she was doing.
I found out however, as the second woman brought Linda up, with her cub in her hands, and lay her between me and my cushions. I smiled as she played with her toy beside me, and tried to talk to her, which made her laugh – as the two women left us alone...
Fortunately for Anne, her husband came home early – and released her.
While it can be terrifying enough to be on your own when this happens, for Jade and Cara, the fact they had brought their two toddlers together for a play date added an extra level of frission when two gentlemen called on Jade...
“Thank you ladies – now, please, put your feet up on the coffee table and cross your ankles.”
I looked at Cara, who was twisting round, trying to find some give in the rope that held her wrists tightly together behind her back, but I knew it was no use. The masked man had bound mine first, and I couldn’t even reach the knot, never mind try to get them loose.
I had arrived at Cara’s house an hour ago with Angel – when I came in, I had left my black Wellington boots at the front door, and taken my daughter’s silver ones off her. She’s a year old now, a black bow in her short ginger hair, and she was wearing a blue denim louse over a red vest, and Scandinavian style leggings. As for me, I had on an Arran cream cardigan over a red tartan blouse, and blue jeans.
Cara and I gave birth about the same time in the same ward, and we get together every week at each other’s houses. Today, she was wearing a brown sleeveless cardigan over a blue and grey striped top, denim shorts, black leggings and a pair of long grey socks. Bobbi was wearing a pink dress and leggings, and at the moment was playing with Angel in her playpen.
Which was just as well, given what was happening. We had just started to have our coffee when the two men walked in – dressed in black, including the balaclavas which meant all we could see of their faces were their eyes and mouths. They had looked at us, and at the babies, and then the taller of the two – had apologised for the intrusion?
That was strange enough, but then he had told us both to lean forward and put our hands behind our backs, while the smaller of the two walked behind us and used some sort of rope to secure my wrists together, than Cara’s.
He had the left the room, and the taller of the two men had just ordered us to put our feet on the coffee table. “What do you think he’s going to do, Jade,” she said as we both did as he had asked.
“At a guess,” I said as he put a bag down, and produced two more lengths of rope, “bind our ankles together.”
Which is exactly what he did, doubling the ropes over, and then wrapping them around and between our ankles, securing them before he tied the ends off and tucked them into the band.
He then produced two more lengths of rope, and used them to bind our legs together below our knees – taking the rope between our legs as well. The strange thing was, as he did it, he talked quietly to us about our kids, and about other things going on at that time.
I then heard Angel crying, and asked what was wrong. The masked man walked over and picked her up, before saying she needed changing. He asked me where the changing bag was, and I nodded to the blue bag by the door. To my amazement, he then picked up the bag, removed the mat from the outside and put it on the floor, and changed Angel, talking and laughing with her as he removed the soiled nappy, put it in a bag with the wipes, put some talc on her and put a fresh nappy on, before putting her leggings back on her.
He then put her back into the playpen, and stood for a few minutes, talking to them while Cara and I tried to find a way of untying ourselves. Then we heard the other man – who stood a good foot smaller – from the doorway, saying he had finished upstairs, and we needed to be further secured.
His partner was apologetic, saying he had been distracted by the babies – a fact which not only was true, but his partner accepted. That didn’t stop him producing a longer length of rope from the bag, and then binding Jade’s arms to her sides, her cardigan falling to the sides as her chest was forced out. The rope went above and below, and then under one arm, around the back of her neck and under the other.
Once he that tied off, he did the same to me, while the taller man took Bobbi from the playpen and changed her. He then turned to us and said “is it nearly time for their feed?”
We looked at each other and then nodded, as he disappeared to the kitchen for a few minutes, returning with two bottles of milk. He handed one to his partner, and we watched as they both gave our babies the milk, holding them in their arms and quietly talking to them, and then winding them and rocking them in their arms as they fell asleep.
We breathed a sigh of relief as they laid them in the playpen, side by side, before the taller man took the bottles away, and the smaller man returned to the bag. He took out two sponge balls and a roll of white medical tape, and as Jade and I looked at each other, we knew what was coming.
The sponge expanded in our mouths, keeping our tongues down and soaking up the saliva, while he smoothed the tape firmly over our mouths, the material adhering like a second skin. All we could do was mumble to each other, the shape of Jade’s lips moving under the tape making me giggle, while he turned the television on and found a film.
And with that, the taller man returned, saying something about Adieu and never meeting again, before they both left. When Jade’s husband returned two hours later, we found out they had emptied their safe and taken all their valuables – but they had also sterilized the bottles they had used! I was just grateful both Angel and Bobbi slept through the whole thing...
Our final tale takes us to Camden town on a Market day – and a woman called Patience...
I’d taken Celeste to the market with me – she was wrapped up in a blanket in the pushchair, with the rain cover over, and I had on my long burgundy red coat with leather sleeves, an old denim blouse and jeans, and a pair of tight black over the knee boots. I also had a crimson headscarf tied over my hair.
Celeste was eighteen months old at the time, and had on a blue jumper and a pair of leggings, with black ankle boots
Anyway, we went to the market, and I picked up a few things – totally unaware someone was watching us and following us around. The first I knew about it was when we got back to the flats and I took the lift to the third floor, walking along and opening my front door before pushing Celeste in. I had just lifted the rain cover off, and pulled the hood of the pushchair back to take her out, when I felt the point at my back, and some young punk told me to put my hands behind my back.
Well, I turned round and looked at the young girl, and said “no.” Which was when she threatened to cut Celeste, who was still asleep. So I removed my coat, turned round and put my hands behind my back, wincing as I felt a thin plastic strip been used to secure my wrists behind my back, the rasping sound at least not waking her.
I was then walked into my front room, and pushed onto the couch, then made to lie on my side, while she used a second zip tie to secure my ankles together. She then left me alone, and set off to search the house, obviously looking for money and things.
When she came back, she had in her hand another of my headscarves, which she pushed into my mouth. She didn’t use anything to keep it in, but it filed my mouth and I could not dare to try and push it out, in case she hurt Celeste. She then went into the hallway, and wheeled Celeste in, still asleep to my great relief – and then she left, slamming the door behind her.
Which made Celeste wake up. She rubbed her eyes and looked at me, then smiled as she said “mama.”
I remember saying something that was meant to be “Oh my god – now what” but came out as a low mumble. To my amazement, Celeste laughed, and then she fiddled with the clasp on her seat harness. Somehow, she managed to release it, and then pushed herself out of the chair, walking towards me as I tried to get my wrists free.
Standing and looking at my face, she started to pull on the edges of the scarf that were sticking out from between my lips. I nodded and tried to make encouraging noises, until eventually she managed to pull it all out.
“Wet, mama,” she said as she held it up and giggled. I nodded, and then said “Celeste – find Mama’s phone in her handbag, and bring it here.”
“Okay,” she said with a smile as she went to where the girl had thrown my handbag down, and looked in it, holding up my phone. I nodded, and then encouraged her as she walked back over, nodding as she placed it by my head. I then used my nose to call the emergency number – and promised I’d give her a huge treat when the nice policeman arrived that I had called.
All the stories we told today have had happy endings – our prayer is, however, this always remains a story for you. You have been watching In Their Own Words – until next time...