This week on In Olden Days, we look back to the seventies, and a series of four burglaries which at the time, were felt to be unconnected – but all took place within a week of each other in the same Shropshire town, so was it just coincidence?
Our first tale involved an eighteen year old girl named Naomi, who returned home early from work one day to find an intruder in her home…
I remember it even after nearly forty years – I think because of the complete shock I felt about it. I was working as a Saturday girl at a local boutique in town, and had managed to get away a couple of hours early to go to a party. Dad was at a football game, and Mum had gone into town, so I knew the house would be empty.
I was wearing a brown mini dress – brown was the colour of the time, after all, and it had short puffed sleeves with a ruffed front and collar. I was also wearing a pair of black patent leather knee length boots, laced up the front. I wore my light brown hair short in those days.
Anyway – I got into the house, and closed the door behind me, before I headed into the kitchen and put my handbag on the table. I went to the big fridge we had in the house at the time, took out a bottle of coke and opened it, pouring it into a glass before I pushed some ice cubes out of the holder and dropped them in.
That was when I felt something push at my back, and a rough voice said “Don’t move, don’t turn round, don’t scream. Do exactly what I say, and you’ll be just fine, understand?”
I nodded slowly, whispering “Who are you” as I looked straight ahead.
“Never mind – I need to make sure you can’t raise the alarm. Very slowly, put your hands behind your back and put them together, palm to palm.”
“Please, don’t hurt me…”
“Then do as I say,” he repeated, so I moved my hands behind my back, before feeling some sort of rope around my wrists, pulling them together as I felt them pulled together. I flexed my fingers and kept my mouth shut, especially when I saw it was actually string the man was using – he wound it round my waist to fix them against my back, and then turned me round.
He towered over me – I’m only five foot six, and he was a good foot taller, with a balaclava over his head allowing me to see only his eyes and mouth, as he made me walk into the front room. I saw the knife in his hand, so I wasn’t about to argue with him as he made me lie face down on the cushions of our wooden settee, and started to tie my ankles together with the string.
“What are you doing this for,” I said as I looked over my shoulder, watching as he tied my legs together below and above my knees, the string biting into my legs before he cut it free with the knife and tied it off.
“I need time to get away – thanks for your jewellery and things,” he said as he rolled me over, and took a roll of brown sticking plaster from his mouth. Tearing a strip off, he pressed it down over my lips, and then left, the front door closing behind him.
I started to try and free myself, the squeaking of leather as my legs rubbed against each other the only other sound, but it was no good – the string was too tight. I eventually gave up and waited until my dad got back from the game, and got the fright of his life.
The funny thing was I didn’t have much jewellery, and neither did mum – so why did he do this to me for so little? I never really got that question answered…
Naomi was taken completely by surprise, and never really got an answer to her question – but as we said, she was not the only woman to be robbed in this town at that time. Later that night, Robert and Deirdre Hope were returning home from a party when they disturbed an unexpected visitor. Deirdre tells the story…
It would have been about ten in the evening when we got home from the dinner party with Robert’s boss. He was wearing a dark sports jacket over a grey shirt and trousers, with a flashy tie. I remember he wore his hair long then, and had sideburns and a moustache.
I had long ginger hair, and wore glasses even then, and that night had on a sleepless purple blouse under a white jacket and mini skirt, as well as knee length white boots that laced up the front.
Anyway, we drove back to the house, parked the car and walked in, completely unaware that anything was wrong. I went to the front room to pour us both a nightcap, while Robert took his jacket off and went to hang it on a hanger in our bedroom.
I heard him walk in, and then him say “Deirdre, don’t be scared.”
“Scared of what,” I said, but when I turned round I saw there was a second man with him - and he had a gun in Robert’s side as he smiled through the hole in the balaclava.
“Not a word,” he said, “just put those glasses down, and then come over here.”
“Just do as he says,” Robert whispered, so I walked slowly over, my eyes wide the whole time.
“All right,” the man said as he let Robert go, “I need to keep you two quiet and out of the way while I rob you.” He took a length of cord from his pocket, and handed it to Robert, before saying “tie your wife’s wrists together in front of her, nice and tight.”
“I’m sorry, love,” Robert said as he used the cord. He tried to be as gentle as he could be, but it still hurt as he wrapped the rope around and between my wrists. The masked man looked at the ropes and said “Good – right, up to your bedroom, both of you.”
“Just don’t hurt her,” Robert said as we walked up the stairs, and into our room. We were lucky enough to have a large house, and in the centre of our room was a king sized bed with a large iron headboard.
“All right,” the man said as he opened a drawer, and took out some of Robert’s handkerchiefs, ”stuff one of these into your mouth, and use your tie to keep it in there.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Do I have to ask twice,” the masked man said as he held my arm, making me say “Robert, please…”
He slowly removed his tie, and picked up the hankie, stuffing it into his mouth as the man had said before he removed his tie and pulled it between his lips, knotting it at the base of his neck.
“Very good – now lie face down on the bed, and put your hands behind your back.”
“Lie down,” he whispered, at the same time sitting me on the other side of the bed. I watched as he produced more lengths of rope, and tied my husband’s wrists tightly together behind his back, then crossed and tied his ankles, before finally securing his legs together below his knees.
“Now,” he said as he looked at me, “lie down and raise your hands above your head.”
Robert rolled on to his side and watched as the man tied my wrists to the headboard with more cord, and then removed my glasses, folding the legs and putting them on the bedside table. He then crossed my ankles and tied them tightly together as well, before using one last length of rope to tie my legs together below my knees, taking the rope between my legs as well.
“Now then,” he said as he stroked my hair away from my eyes, “your jewellery?”
“In the drawer over there,” I said as Robert grunted next to me.
“Oh don’t chastise your wife – you had no choice, and it avoids mess,” the masked man said as he walked over and helped himself to my valuables, before he returned with another of Robert’s hankies and one of my chiffon scarves. He pushed the hankie into my mouth, and then pulled the rolled up scarf between my lips, tying it at the base of my neck as I raised my head.
“There now – enjoy your evening,” he said as he pulled the telephone by the bedside away from the wall, and left us with the light on. As soon as we knew he had gone, Robert sat himself up and started to try and remove the scarf from my mouth, using his fingers to ease under the chiffon band.
It took a couple of hours, but he eventually ungagged me, and I used my teeth release his wrists, before he untied me and we called the police.
Two days later, there was another robbery at the home of a young legal secretary, Kathy Jones. We asked her to recall what happened that morning…
I was getting ready to go to work – I had eaten, bathed, and was wearing a white sleeveless jumper with a roll neck, and a short dark skirt. So short that when I went to put my coat on, it covered the skirt and no more. I was also wearing a long pair of tight white PVC boots, which came well up over my knees.
Like I say, I was getting ready to go to work, and indeed had picked up my handbag and opened my front door. That was as far as I got in terms of going out, as the man at the door pushed me back in. He was tall – I’m five eleven, and he towered over me – and had a black scarf tied over the lower half of his face.
“Not a word,” he said as I saw the gun in his gloved hand, “back into the living room, and lie face down on the floor.”
Well, I was too scared to do anything other than what he said, so I went in front of him back into the room, and lay face down on the floor, on top of my Persian rug.
“What do you want,” I said as I felt him pull my hands behind my back, and use what felt like some sort of tape to secure my wrists together.
“Your valuables, and for you to keep quiet and don’t struggle,” he said as he put my ankles side by side, and I heard the tape ripping again, my ankles and feet being secured together this time, and then my legs below my knees, the PVC squeaking like mad as I tried to move my legs.
“Up you get,” he said as he made me get onto my knees, and I saw him pass a roll of silver tape around my waist and arms, fixing them against my side, before he made me sit down on the floor, my back against the seat.
“Now – your valuables?”
“In…. IN the bedroom,” I whimpered, especially when I saw the cloth in his hand.
“Very good – now, open wide.”
I had no choice, really, as I let him push the cloth into my lips, and then he tore off a length of the silver tape and pressed it down firmly over my mouth. “Don’t go anywhere,” he said as he left me struggling on the floor.
Funny guy – like I was going to be able to go anywhere! I struggled to get free, the squeaking and rustling driving me mad, but it was no use – the tape was too tight around me.
Eventually he came back, checked the tape, and then walked out. It took me ages to get the phone down from the table and raise the alarm…
One other woman had a visit during that particular week – she was a nurse at the local hospital, returning from her shift and looking forward to a night out before her plans were changed.
It had been a rough day when I got back to my flat, and I needed a bath and a change of clothes. So I removed my cape and my cap, and then my nurse’s uniform, breathing a sigh of relief as I slipped off the tight black shoes and unrolled the tights.
Twenty minutes and one bath later, I was drying my long blonde hair and thinking about the party I was going to with my boyfriend that night. I already had my outfit laid out – a dark brown velvet shirt and matching hot pants, and my new over the knee light brown suede boots with the stack heel.
I slipped on the tight shorts, and then fastened the blouse up before I sat down and pulled the boots up, the soft leather fitting like a second skin over my legs as I stretched them out before standing up.
“Not bad at all,” I said as I sat down and brushed my hair out, and then walked into my front room – only to be met by a tall man, wearing a balaclava mask, and holding a gun in his hand as he looked at me.
“Hello,” he said, “please don’t scream – I just need to tie you up and gag you before I steal your valuables.”
I could see he had pulled the phone away from the wall, and – well, he had the nicest eyes as he looked at me. So I said “You promise you won’t hurt me?”
“I promise,” he said as he reached into his pocket, and took out some lengths of cord. “Now, please, turn round and put your hands behind your back.”
“You’re very polite for a robber,” I said as I did what he asked, and I felt my wrists being crossed and tied together.
“You’re very beautiful for a nurse,” he said in reply as I felt the rope going around and between my wrists, and then he turned me round. “That’s a very nice basket chair,” he said as he looked at it, hanging from the ceiling, “go and sit in it.”
I walked over and sat myself down in the wicker basket, watching as he knelt in front of me and tied my ankles tightly together, as well as my legs below my knees, the rope going between my legs on both counts to make them tighter, and making the brown suede lighten as it tightened round my boots.
“There now,” he said with a smile as he helped me to tuck my feet into the chair, “nice and cosy, but I need to keep you quiet. Purse your lips for me please.”
Well, he asked so nicely, and I wasn’t in a position to do much about it, so I pursed my lips and allowed him to press a strip of wide medical tape down over my mouth, sealing them together before I watched him search the room, and then heard him searching my room.
Eventually, he left the flat, and me in the chair trying to reach my ankles or get my wrists free. It was several hours later when my boyfriend let himself in, and found me there, gift wrapped and waiting for a hero to rescue me.
Four different robberies, and only connected by the fact they were in the same town – but was there another connection? All four women had one more thing in common – they had all recently ordered jewellery from a store in the town, and unbeknownst to them they had all collected it on the same day. Was that the other connection, and if so – why were they selected?
The owner of that store emigrated years ago, and we have been unable to trace her – but is it possible she may hold the answer? We can only speculate…
She groaned as she watched the program on the television screen – it was her grandmother who had owned the store in question, and she had told her about the two masked men who took over the store, one of them holding her captive in the back of the store while the other served the customers, and selected those four.
“Yeah – I could tell them,” she said as she looked at the man by her side, binding her ankles together and then pulling them under the seat she had been tied to. She loved to dress in the fashions of the seventies, and was wearing a paisley patterned knee length dress with elbow length sleeves, the wide lapel collars currently pressed under the ropes that went from the back of the chair and over her upper body. Her wrists were already tightly bound together and to the chair back, as was her waist.
The white rope around her ankles contrasted with the black suede of her knee length laced boots, as well as her dark tights as the man bound her legs tightly together below her knees. With her legs pulled under the chair, and her ankles secured to her wrists, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to move.
“Now then,” the masked man said as he stood up, “thank you for your cooperation.” He untied the ivory scarf she had tied over her hair and shook it loose, rolling it into a band and tying a knot in it, before he said “open wide now.”
As he gagged her, she remembered how her grandmother had described her position, hogtied on the floor in the back of the shop, hoping her suede skirt didn’t slip and reveal anything as she twisted from side to side, her mouth sealed with tape, the ropes rubbing on her bare arms and legs.
“At least this is more comfortable,” she said to herself as the knot pressed her tongue down, and the band was tied tightly round her head, the next program on the channel starting as the man packed the silverware away…