The Cat and the Key People







The current situation certainly has to be one of the most unusual and frightening I have seen in my life.  No, I’m fine – but one of my assistants has come down with a cough, and as a result I am, to use an old time, confined to barracks for the foreseeable future.


What it does mean, however, is I have had time to make some notes for my memoirs – a project John and Shirley suggested I should finally get round to doing when we spoke on the telephone.  And as I start typing this, I saw on the news the list of “key workers” that had been announced by the powers that be whose children would be allowed to go to school from Monday.


And that list brought a few memories to mind…


For example, when I was still new to the trade of car burglary, I remember at one o’clock one morning entering a flat in Clapham, and looking round to see what I could find.  In the bedroom, I happened to notice hanging on the back of the door a nurse’s uniform – the pale blue dress with white puffed sleeves, white apron, and the black cape they used to wear in those days, neatly pressed and ready to wear.


I smiled as I saw this – my regard for the nursing profession knows no bounds – but I had to put on my professional face when I heard the door open and close, and stood behind the door as it opened inwards.


She was in her early twenties, wearing a white long sleeved blouse, and a short pleated grey skirt, as well as knee length white go-go boots – and the only way I was going to get out was by making sure she could not stop me. 


So as she looked round, wondering why her chest of drawers had been opened up, I came up behind her and covered her moth with my hand, whispering that I was not going to hurt her, but I had to make sure she could not raise the alarm.  Well, she was very understanding, as I told her to lie on her back on the bed while I took a roll of twine from my pocket.


And so it was, a few minutes later, that she was lying there, her wrists tied together in front of her with the twine which I had then played out and used to secure her ankles together, a folded white handkerchief in her mouth with the edges sticking out between her lips, while I said I would make sure somebody knew of her predicament and left the room.


Don’t worry – I did let the police know.  I had no desire to keep her from her important work.



Nurses, of course, are not the only members of the medical profession taken as key workers, doctors are also key to the National Health Service as well.  And certainly in those heady days of the early seventies, female doctors were the subject of the worst kind of films – and the best kind of praise.


The one that comes to my mind lived in a house share in Tooting, near the St George Hospital.  And it was a Saturday afternoon when I got into the house to see what they had to offer.


The thing about junior doctors, of course, is they work all the hours the good Lord gives them – a fact I had forgotten at that time, because as I was checking the front room of the house for valuables she walked in.  The woman in question had long dark hair, and was wearing a brown fur jacket over a floral print blouse and a blue miniskirt that buttoned up the front, light hose and knee length black leather boots.


As you can imagine, she was as surprised to see me as I was to see her, but fortunately she accepted it when I said I only wanted to tie her up so that I could take her money.  I asked her to remove her coat, and then to lie face down on the long brown leather couch, with her hands behind her back.


I had some lengths of cord in my pocket, one of which I used to secure her wrists together behind her back, and the other to secure her ankles together, before I told her to roll over and put her lips together.  Her doctor’s bag was on the floor, and on it I found a roll of brown sticking plaster – some of which I tore off and pressed over her lips to keep her quiet while I went round the rest of the house.


The strange thing was, when I looked in after finishing my search of the house, she was asleep – her eyes closed, and I could hear her gentle breathing in and out through her nose.  Obviously, she was exhausted – so I left her to enjoy her rest, and made my way out before anybody else came home…



Now, they are not specifically mentioned in the list, but midwives are incredibly important people as well, which made me think of a visit to Newcastle upon Tyne, specifically along the Western Road where you will find Newcastle General Hospital – which, in the 1980s, was the main maternity hospital for the city.


It was 1985 if I remember correctly, and I was outside a house off the main road – a detached, three bedroomed house, which I was led to understand had a nice collection of coins in it.


Getting in wasn’t a problem, as I went round the back and managed to gain entry through the kitchen window, but before I could leave the kitchen I heard a key turn in the front door.  Looking through a crack in the door, I saw a woman in her mid-twenties walk in, wearing a long coat over a dark blue dress, dark hose and black flat shoes.  She closed the door, removed her coat and hung it on a stand, and then made her way upstairs.


Well, I knew that would make things a little more difficult, but I was in – so I made my way to where I knew there was a downstairs office, slipped in and closed the door as quietly as possibly behind myself, and then set to work opening the small safe on the floor.


That wasn’t too difficult, and I was putting what was indeed a fine collection of coins into my bag when I heard footsteps outside, and a female voice say “is there anybody there?”


I knew then I may have to stay a little while longer, as the door opened and the young woman walked in.  she was now wearing a blue denim dress, in that Edwardian style that was popular at the time, a white roll-necked sweater under the dress, and brown suede boots with a low square heel.  She looked at the open safe door – and then opened her eyes wide as I put my gloved hand over her mouth, told her to remain calm, and to take a seat in an old chair that was in the room, her hands palm down on the wooden armrests.


As she did this, I assured her I was only going to make sure she could not raise the alarm while I made my getaway, and we started to talk.  She was the daughter of the house, and had just finished her shift at the hospital, which was about ten minutes’ walk from the house.  Very convenient.


As we were talking, I had used a roll of silver duct tape to secure her wrists down to the armrests, and then wrapped some round her waist to hold her against the chair back.  More tape them went round her upper legs and the chair seat, before I taped her ankles together, as well as her legs at her knees, trapping her skirt round them at the same time.


Finally, I covered her mouth with strips of the silver tape – and for some reason, ‘I pulled up the rolled collar of her jumper and covered the lower half of her face with it, so that the silver was covered by the white.


And to this day, I truly have no idea why I did that…





Now, the announcement of our beloved Prime Minister was that schools would close, except for the children if “key workers” and those who had special needs.  Which, by default, meant that teachers were counted as key workers as well.


Lucky them.


A few months after the visit to Newcastle, I was in the North East again – Durham this time, at the request of one of the people I dealt with at the time to obtain some silver items.


I deliberately chose to visit this house one daytime at about one – when the street was quietest, and the schools would all be teaching.  The house itself was a semi-detached “Barret box” as they were known, so getting in through the kitchen door wasn’t a problem.


I had, however, started to come more prepared by that time, so I had some lengths of rope and other items – just in case.  And believe me, I was glad I had them when I heard the front door open and close while I was looking round in the bedrooms.


As I walked down, the first thing I saw as I looked to the kitchen was a set of exercise books sitting next to a large canvas bag.  Then I came closer to the room, and saw the lady of the house standing there.  She had long brown hair, and was wearing a long sleeved brown dress with an ethnic print, a brown roll neck sweater underneath, and baggy tan coloured leather boots.  She must have heard something then, because she turned and looked at me, a silver necklace visible round her neck.


I was calm and collected, as I told her to keep quiet, and I wasn’t going to harm her.  I have always found remaining calm keeps things in perspective, as she slowly put down the mug of coffee she was holding, and asked me what I was going to do.


What I did was to pull a brown wooden chair from the table, and tell her to take a seat, with her coffee mug.  She looked at me askance, and then did as I asked, thanking me as I let her finish her coffee – while I tied rope round her waist to make sure she stayed in the chair.


I kept talking to her as I knelt down and secured her ankles together with more rope, then took them to the side and secured them to the front leg of the chair.  My next move was to secure her legs above her knees, the skirt of her dress gathering under it as her legs were revealed.


Having done that, I stood up and allowed her to finish the last of her drink, before taking the mug from her and setting it on the table – then taking her arms around the chair back and securing her wrists together, before I tied the ends of the rope round the chair back.


As I was doing this, she said she had only come home to catch up on her marking.  I apologised for the fact she would not be able to do that, before I found a clean face cloth in the washing basket, folded it and told her to open her mouth.  I pushed the cloth gently in, then pulled the collar of her jumper up to cover her mouth and chin.  Some duct tape round her head made sure that stayed there…




I was pleased to see that those who are responsible for the provision and distribution of food have been designated key workers – which reminded me of a visit to a small town in Norfolk, and how I ended up spending more time there than I intended to.


You’ve been to a small town like this – the sort with a small high street, and only one or two stores.  This one had a butcher, a post office, and a greengrocer – but I had learned from my research that the wife of the greengrocer was actually a very well know romance writer.  She used a pseudonym of course – and no, I’m not going to tell you the name – but she had a decent reputation.


So I figured, given she covered her tracks as a writer by running the local grocery store, that I should be able to get in and out quickly.  I picked pension day – the day she would be busiest – and just after lunchtime I managed to cross the rear yard, walk up the stairs to their upstairs home, and let myself in.


Now my instincts were correct, she did indeed have some fine items of jewellery, all the time to the soft sound of people talking downstairs.  This time, I was the one taken by surprise when the bedroom door opened, and said authoress walked in, standing in shock as she looked at me.


She was wearing a grey woollen dress with a cowl neck, and brown soft boots the same shade as her hair – and I could still hear people talking downstairs.  So I asked her not to shout, told her I was not going to hurt her, and that all I wanted was her jewellery – stuff she could claim back on insurance.


I also asked who was manning the store, and she told me it was her daughter - she had just come up t lie down for an hour.  She then asked the killer question – what was I going to do to her?


I took some lengths of rope from my bag, and told her to lie on her back on the bed, then told her to cross her wrists in front of herself.  It was the work of a few minutes to bind her wrists together with the rope, and then take them above her head and secure them to the headboard of the bed.


I then took a second length of rope and secured her ankles together, before continuing my search of the room while we had a chat about her work.  She was surprised I knew so much about her books – but then, I like to surprise people.


I also don’t mind being surprised either.  In fact, I had not been listening to the fact there was no more noise coming from downstairs – so when she told her daughter not to be afraid, but to come in as well, I took a moment to look at her.


She had long blonde hair, and was wearing a black sweater with a gold chain round her neck, a grey leopard print skirt and brown cowboy style boots – and she was shocked to see her mother tied on the bed.  But she accepted the situation, and a few minutes later she was lying next to her mother, her wrists bound and secured above her head, her ankles tied together as well while they talked to each other.


Until I used a pair of her mothers scarves as cleave gags, and then they just mumbled to each other…




Now, one question I get asked from time to time is whether or not I have ever robbed one of our fine police officers.  The answer to that is yes – although I did not know it at the time.


It was around the end of the century – and boy, does that phrase sound strange – and I was doing an en spec call to a detached house in the outskirts of Oxford.  I had been doing some antiquing in the area, and saw the house as I drove past.  It looked neat, well-kept garden – and yes, I was itching to use some of my old skills.


SO I parked a couple of streets away, walked back and into the rear of the house, then managed to open a window and get in.  I made my way quickly upstairs, and found quite a few nice pieces of jewellery – and some cash as well.


So I went down and started to look round the front room – but I also heard someone come in, so I took a moment to pull down the balaclava I was wearing as a hat, and waited behind the door.


The woman who came in was in her mid-forties, with long reddish-brown hair, and she was wearing a brown jersey dress with a Nordic pattern on it, and deep burgundy red riding style boots.  And she was very surprised to see a masked man in her house, smiling as he invited her to close the door, and sit down with her hands on her head.


But, she did just that – not without noting I was being very politely insistent.  I smiled and said it goes with the territory, waiting until she sat down and placed her hands palm down on her head before I took her wrists and gently took them behind her back, using some thing ripe to secure them tightly together.  I then reached down to the bag I had behind the couch, took out  a longer length, and wrapped it round her arms and upper body, forming two bands that made sur all she could really do was wriggle round.


She seemed to be impressed, as I knelt in front of her and used more of the rope to bind her ankles tightly together, then a final length to secure her legs together above her knees, the skirt of her dress gathered round her legs as she did so.


I then took a large black silk square from my bag and rolled it into a band before I tied a knot in the middle.   She opened her mouth nice and wide and allowed me to ease the knot between her teeth, and then tied the band round her head, making sure her hair was not trapped by the band before she lay on her side and watched me.


Well, I got away safely enough – and then a week or so later, I was watching television when the Deputy Chief Constable of the Oxfordshire Force appeared on the screen.


And I realised just how flaming close I had come to having my career end…




One more tale I an think of today given the list that appeared – the time I was interviewed by a reporter for BBC Radio Kent.


This was once I was fully retired – well, as fully retired as I am, and  I was approached to discuss some of the issues in the Antique business after the crash of 2008.  I agreed to meet her, and so one day she called at my home.


She was in her early thirties, with blonde hair, and she was wearing a pinafore style dress with – and I kid you not – a design of writing and pictures.  The dress was over a grey, black and white striped jumper with black collar and cuffs, and she had on a pair of patent tight black leather boots.


Well the interview went well, but when she heard I also worked as a security consultant she asked me what that entailed.  That got me into a discussion of what happened during home invasions, and somehow the conversation got round  to her telling me of how she and her family had been robbed at home some years before by a couple of very well spoken, very polite masked men.


No, I did not reveal I knew who they were, but she asked me if I had ever been in that position.  I had to admit I had not – which was true – but I have tested security systems by pretending to break in and acting as a robber.


Which was when she asked me how I would tie her up, to stop her raising the alarm.  I asked, in all seriousness, if she wanted me to do that, but she nodded and turned off her recorder, saying it would be off the record.


So I invited her to sit in a high backed wooden chair, and then to put her arms round the chair back.  I used a length of washing line to secure her wrists tightly together and then to the chair back, before I used a much longer length to fix her upper body against the chair back, wrapping it round in such a way her arms were fixed into her sides as well.


She actually asked where I had learned to do this, but I just said I was a scout – as I knelt down and secured her ankles tightly together, then pulled them back and tied the rope to the spar between the legs.  I also secured her legs together below her knees, lifting her skirt slightly back to do so – with her permission, of course.


So there she was, secured to the chair, still talking to me about home security – and then she asked how I would really keep her quiet.  Again, I made sure she understood what she was asking, and when she nodded I folded a cloth and told her to open her mouth.


The cloth went in behind her teeth, before I used some white hypoallergenic tape to cover her mouth – then used her mobile phone to take a picture and showed it to her. 


Naturally, that was not part of the interview…


Ah – a call from the US.  If you will excuse me…







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