Cat In The Cradle
Get the door for me, will you? Thanks – hope to see you again soon. Good day to you and yours!
Ah, that’s better – it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry I haven’t been around recently – a lot of travelling and other stuff you don’t need to know about. Put the kettle on and we’ll have a chat.
Thanks – I needed that. Good looking woman wasn’t it – and nice looking kids as well. I love kids, even if on occasions in the past they have led to some interesting diversions in my line of work.
As you can imagine, I always tried to avoid situations where there may be children involved. Not just because of my nature – they also complicate the issue immensely if it is necessary to employ restraints of any form. To tell the truth, I was fairly lucky in that respect – but not always.
The earliest incident that comes to mind actually also involved an early arrival of sorts. It would have been about 1967- no, 69. I remember because Let It Be was released at the time, when I made my entry into a small flat in the Bayswater area. It seemed quiet, so I closed the kitchen window that I had jemmied open and made my way silently into the main part of the flat area.
Well, I had spent half an hour or so searching through the rooms, and was about to make my way to the bedroom when I heard a voice calling out from the bathroom, saying “Help Me”. My curiosity got the better of me, and I used a screwdriver to jemmy the locked door.
There was a young woman, quite obviously in the later stages of pregnancy, sitting on the floor. She was wearing a blue cotton smock top over stretch pants, and the look on her face was one of agony. Looking on the floor, I could see why – the fluid on the lino told the story all too plainly.
What she thought of the man in black standing there I don’t know, but she just shouted “For God’s sake, help me – my baby’s coming!”
Well, of course I helped her. Taking her by the arm, I helped her to the bedroom and lay her down. Pulling her trousers off, I could see the head of the baby starting to crown, and I knew there was very little time.
“Keep breathing,” I shouted as I rushed to get some boiling water and other things from the kitchen. I also grabbed some twine while I was there, but when I came back into the room she was in absolute agony and the head was starting to appear.
Ten minutes later, I’m wrapping a clean towel around the screaming new born boy, and tying the umbilical cord with the kitchen twine. I knew a little first aid, and made sure the birth process was complete before passing the baby over to the new mother.
“Thank you,” she panted as she cradled the baby next to her, “but what were you doing in my flat?”
“Truthfully,” I answered, “I was robbing you, but this is not the time for that to happen. I’m going to call for an ambulance, and then leave. All your belongings are in here.”
Placing the bag on the bed, I went into the lobby and called for an ambulance, before covering the girl up and leaving by the front door, making sure it stayed open until the ambulance crew arrived. I never saw her, or visited that flat again.
One advantage of being a night worker is that you often do not have to disturb the residents when you visit – and believe me, you do not want to disturb them. Sometimes, however, the most unexpected of occurrences can happen.
One night in the mid-70’s I was preparing to visit a house in the North of London. As it was a larger place, I had checked out the schedule, and knew the man of the house was working night shifts at that particular crime, so I did not anticipate any sort of impediment to my work. Around about 1 in the morning, I forced open the kitchen window and made my way around the house.
As I worked through the downstairs room, finding some money and gold plate lying around, I could not help but notice the number of toys that were lying in one corner of the room. Obviously, there were children in the house, and young ones at that – I had seen the mother with a toddler and pushchair – but they would be fast asleep by now.
Quietly ascending the staircase, I opened the door to the master bedroom and saw the wife lying there, fast asleep. She was a beautiful woman, in her early thirties with blonde hair but in a bob, and was wearing a pale blue bri-nylon nightdress with short sleeves. I also saw a cot in the room, but was confident that I would not disturb her or her baby as I opened the drawers carefully one by one.
However, I had forgotten in all my careful planning to account for one thing – the feeding patterns of a baby. I had just started to go through her dressing table when the baby started crying, waking the mother. She stirred, mumbled “just a minute, darling” and turned on the bedside lamp – to see me standing in front of her.
“What the…” was all she shouted before I put a gloved hand over her mouth. “You don’t want to wake the other child, do you?” I said as the baby kept crying. She looked at me, wide eyed, and shook her head. “If you promise not to scream, I will take my hand away, all right?” Again, she nodded, and I withdrew my hand.
“Please, don’t hurt me,” she whimpered, but I just smiled. “I promise I won’t hurt you. I think she’s hungry – correct?”
I picked up the girl, dressed in her pink sleeping suit, and placed her by her mother’s side. “Do you need a bottle of milk making up?”
“No – there’s one made up over there,” she said pointing to a container on the table. “Will you allow me to feed him?” “You feed him and I’ll be about my business here. Please, don’t try and raise the alarm, all right?”
The woman nodded and started to pull the nightdress down to expose her breast. As she lay on her side, I opened a wardrobe door and extracted two long cloth belts.
“What are you going to do with them,” she said as she looked over her shoulder.
“I am afraid I cannot have you raising the alarm when I leave, but you concentrate on your little girl. I promise I won’t hurt you.”
As she turned her head back, I gently placed her ankles together and bound them together with one of the belts. The second belt I used to tie her legs together, gathering the skirt of her nightdress above her knees as I did so.
“She’s a hungry little devil, isn’t she?” I commented as I walked past the woman.
“Yes – takes after her father. Listen – I’m going nowhere, can you get another bottle from the fridge and put it in the warmer for me?”
“Of course,” I said, and I left her there feeding the child while I went to the kitchen, collected the full bottle from the fridge and one or two other things, and made my way back up. By this point the baby was full, and was lying by her mother.
“What are the other things for,” she asked as I placed the bottle in the warmer.
“You’ll see,” I said, “but first allow me to place your daughter back in her cot.”
Fifteen minutes later, I bent over and kissed the young woman on the forehead as she lay on her bed. The cotton clothesline was holding her wrists securely to the headboard, and the belts around her legs and ankles made sure she could not try and kick with them.
“Sorry, but its business,” I said as I smoothed the plaster over her mouth. From the cot by the bedside, I could see the little baby sleeping – it was unfortunate she had wanted that bottle as I was searching the drawers, but at least she was asleep again. Her mother looked over and relaxed.
There have been the odd occasions on which I have found myself in a target when people have returned, including the children that live there. The vest majority of times I’ve managed to get out without them realising I was still there until it was too late, but there have been times when other measures had to be taken.
I’ve always hated that – the whole idea of being a cat burglar is to avoid people, and only prevent them raising the alarm if we have to, and that goes doubly so for young children. I also don’t like talking about those times – the look on their faces still haunts me on occasion.
Let me illustrate with the bare bones of one time. Early eighties and I’m at a house out in the suburbs looking around when I hear the front door open. This particular house was in an estate with no way of sneaking out the front, and very little separation between the houses at the back, so I quickly realised that I was trapped – especially when the mother walked into the bedroom I was in.
So there am I, in a black jumper, trousers and gloves with a hat on my head, and her in a brown jumper and skirt, leather boots and a fur-lined bomber jacket. Just to add to the confusion, her daughter walks in. She was about eleven years old, wearing a blue skirt and jumper with a white blouse, white socks and black Mary Jane shoes.
Well, I had to think fast, but I saw a couple of books on the table and had an idea. “Your mother asked me to come and help you to play Nancy Drew” I said casting a look at the older woman.
“Yes,” she said with a hint of both relief and fear, “this man has come to steal the secrets from our house, and he has to keep us out of the way. Do you want to play that?”
The girl thought for a minute, then nodded. I don’t want to go into the details – suffice to say I went first to the mother, then the daughter, and fifteen minutes left them both bound, sat side by side on the bed, with a scarf tied over their mouths. The only difference was that I slipped a balled up cloth into the mother’s mouth when her daughter wasn’t looking.
Ugh – like I say, not something I like doing or talking about. Mind you, that was not the worst kid-related situation that I’ve ever had to deal with. There was one that shocked even me when I saw it – and I’ve seen a few upsetting things in my time.
I was in the north of England – near Manchester again – when I made my way into a small farmhouse set up a lane. The farm itself wasn’t actually working – I knew a big shot in a local business and his partner used it as their home – so I expected to make a fine haul. I discovered that – but a lot more as well.
There was certainly a lot of jewellery in the main bedroom, and their safe was pitifully easy to open, but in my search I came across a door that was locked. Well, I’m no slouch as a locksmith, but when I opened it my heart sank to the pit of my stomach.
It was a small bedroom, with a bed and a cot in it. Lying in the cot was a two year old boy, dressed in dirty old clothes, and on the bed was an eight year old girl in an old, tattered dress and socks. She looked up at me, with tear streaks on her dirty cheeks, and asked very politely and calmly “Have you come to let us out?”
I sat down on the bed, passed a threadbare teddy bare to the young boy who was pointing at it, and talked to the young girl, especially to find out what was happening here. It didn’t take long for her to tell me her sorry tale – the female partner was obviously more interested in money and their father than them. As he was on along business trip, she just locked them in the room each day and left them to fend for themselves.
Well, my blood positively boiled at that. I may be a thief, and I may have caused distress to others, but to treat children in so cavalier a way….. I told the girl not to worry, that things would change, and to trust me.
Thirty minutes later, the woman walks in. She was dressed in a pinstripe jacket and skirt, black with the jacket over a dark blue camisole, and heels. She didn’t expect me to clamp my gloved hand over her mouth, or to force her to sit in a chair while I secured her in place with length after length of a washing line that I had found when looking earlier.
As I pushed a napkin into her mouth, and wrapped a roll of bandage around her jaw, I told her that I had found something she didn’t want to be found, and that she would now face the consequences. Her eyes widened when she saw the two children walk in, the boy holding the girl’s hand, and I told them to sit down while I made a phone call.
Over the years, I had established “working relationships” with one or two members of the police force around the country, and it was one of those I called. He recognised me, but when he heard what I had discovered and that I was taking nothing from the house he agreed to send a car round. I put the receiver down, told the children someone was coming to see them, and left them alone with the woman.
The inhumanities of some people never cease to amaze me, but at least those two had some comfort. When their father found out what had happened, he made it up to them as much as he could.
The last time I had to deal with children I was luckier, in that I had my young apprentice with me. We broke into a house in Newcastle, and were in the process of gathering the stuff we found when the door opened and a mother with twin daughters walked in.
The two girls were twins, ten years old and dressed in whiter smock tops, jeans and black felt boots. Their mother was in her early thirties, wearing a black polo neck sweater and leggings with mid length leather boots. She stared at the tow of us, then her daughters and hugged them both to her side.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I walked over to them, “but I’m afraid you’ve disturbed us. Don’t worry; we’re not going to hurt you.”
“My girls….” the woman said, but I smiled in reply. “Why don’t they go to their room and play with my friend here – I’m sure he can keep them occupied while we talk. Will that be all right?”
I turned and looked at my apprentice, who smiled and replied “Of course it is – if their mother is happy for me to do that. I promise they will come to no harm.”
She nodded silently in reply, so he took the girls by the hand and said “Why don’t you show me your toys?” as he led them out of the room.
“Thank you,” I said as I pulled out a chair from the table, “I promise you they will be fine. Now, please, take a seat and let your arms drop by the side.”
“I take it you are robbing me?” she said as I took a roll of silver duct tape from my bag and gently placed her hand against the side of the chair back.
“I am afraid so, but if I can trust my apprentice with your children, then you should do so as well. I just need to make sure you cannot raise the alarm for a little while, and them we will leave you alone.”
She watched me as I firmly taped her wrist to the wooden support, and then repeated the process on the other side before standing behind her and taping her back against the chair.
“Can you do me one favour?”
“Give them some juice and biscuits before you go – I don’t want them to go thirsty, and I get the feeling I won’t be going anywhere for a while.”
“No, I think you are right, but I will do as you ask.” As I said this, I moved her left leg against the front leg of the chair, taped her ankle to the wood and then her leg over the top of her boot to the upper part of the leg. Repeating this on the other side, I stood up and made sure the binding was firm.
“Anything else?” I asked.
“No – what will happen to my girls?”
“Nothing – I’ll take the drinks up, we will leave and I will arrange for someone to come and find you in a little while. All right?”
“All right,” she said, and I covered her lips and mouth with lengths of tape. Leaving her in the room, I went to the kitchen and gathered together some juice cartons and snacks.
At the top of the stairs, I found my apprentice sitting with the girls as a DVD started on the television in their room. They turned round, looked at me and said “Where’s Mommy?”
“She asked me to give you these,” I said handing them the cartons, “and said if you stayed up here for a while, she’ll come up and see you soon. All right?”
“All right,” they said as my apprentice stood up and followed me out of the room. We left the house quietly, and I made a call to the local police station a short while later.
Let me make it clear again – I have no time or patience with those who threaten or harm children. I’ll string them and be first in line to hurt them if I found out about it. In my lien of work, it happened on occasion, but I always tried not to frighten or harm them.
At least now I only see them when they come into the shop – like now. Help yourself to more tea – I won’t be a minute.