We were sitting in the front room of my daughter’s house, after we had all got together for Sunday lunch – me, my two daughters, and their daughters. The great grandchildren were playing in the back garden, as we got round to discussing the problems we were all facing.
I may be in my eighth decade now, but as I heard them discussing some of the events of recent weeks in our area, they started talking about a man who had apparently broken into a number of houses, tied up the woman in the house, and then stolen their valuables. They wondered aloud how such a thing could happen, why any woman would allow themselves to be treated in that way, and how they would fight back.
Well, I cannot speak for them, but I still remember the time I was surprised by a robber in my own home, even though it was over fifty years ago now...
It was the summer of 1962, and I was nineteen at the time. I worked as a secretary for a local law firm, and still lived at home with my late mother and father. Father was the manager of the local branch of Williams and Glyn bank, while mother was a primary school teacher. We lived in a nice house on the outskirts of Nottingham, three bedrooms, nice big downstairs, and all the modern conveniences in the kitchen – refrigerator, mixer and a small freezer.
It was a Friday night, and Father was taking Mother to a lodge dance, so that I was left in the house on my own. I had spent the day taking letter after letter in dictation, so a quiet night in was just what I wanted. Therefore, I was wearing a light blue blouse, with the sleeves pulled up to my elbows, and a pair of blue and white checked trousers, the hems a little way up from my ankle. My one concession to high fashion was the fact I had to break in a new pair of stilettos, made from black leather, before a dance next week, so rather incongruously I was wearing them around the house that night.
I had sandy brown hair in those days, which in the style of the time was swept right back from my forehead and held there by more than one can of hairspray. At any rate, I waved them off from the front door, closed it behind myself, made a cup of tea and went back into the front room.
I took out the Cliff Richards LP and put it on the player, going back to the kitchen to get my tea and then sitting down with a copy of Pride and Prejudice to pass the time. I was so engrossed in the book I did not hear the window in the kitchen being broken, or the back door opening and closing, or the footsteps in the hallway. The first I knew of someone in the house who should not have been there was then a wool gloved hand was clamped over my mouth, and I heard a man say “well, this is unfortunate – I thought there would be nobody home.”
I was shocked, I can tell you that much, as I grabbed the arm – and then I heard him say “look, I’m not going to hurt you – I just need to keep you out of the way while I have a look round. Now, you can do as I ask, or I could get nasty – which would you prefer?”
I thought about it for a moment, and then let my hands drop as I nodded.
“Thank you – if I take my hand away, will you scream?”
I shook my head from side to side in reply, and then gasped as he took his hand away and walked in front of me. He was wearing a leather biker’s jacket with a grey sweater underneath, jeans and black shoes, and he had a wool scarf wrapped round the lower half of his face.
“You’re a good looking young woman,” he said as he looked round, and took several lengths of what looked like washing line from his pocket, “so I’m really sorry about this.”
Looking round, he walked over to where we had a chaise longue – well, a settee with only one arm, which he pointed to and said “lie face down on this please, and put your hands behind your back.”
“Why should I do that?”
“Because I need to tie you up so that you can’t stop me,” he said with a smile, “so please, lie down and put your hands behind your back.”
“All right,” I said quietly, unable to take my eyes off him as I stood up and walked slowly on my heels. I could feel his eyes on me as I lay face down, and then moved my arms so that my wrists were together.
The cords felt strange as he started to tie my wrists together – soft, but tight... Tight, yet comfortable... I still cannot really describe how it felt as the rope went several times around and between my arms, holding them firmly together before he tugged one more time, tied the ends together and tucked them out of reach of my fingers.
I then felt him cross my ankles, and tried to move as he began to lash them together in the same way he had secured my ankles. He had a light touch, and as he passed the rope between my legs I could feel his fingers running down the back and inside of my legs.
“All right – don’t move,” he said as he left the room for a moment, and I looked down my body, raising and lowering my legs and looking at the band of white cord holding my ankles together.
“All right,” he said as he came back in, “I need you to open your mouth please.”
“SO that I can gag you,” he said as he held up a long black scarf and a large handkerchief.
“But I may choke...”
“Look – breath through your nose and stay calm, and you’ll be fine. Now, please, open your mouth.”
I was too scared to do anything other than open my mouth, as I tasted the clean cotton on my tongue while the intruder pushed the cloth in, and then pulled the black scarf tightly over my mouth, muffling my complaints as he wrapped the material around my head and tied the ends together at the base of my neck, double knotting it as I grunted.
“Roll over please.”
I rolled over, my head on the arm of the couch as he bent my legs, and then tied them together above my knees with yet more cord, securing them before he looked at me, brushing my forehead.
“Don’t go anywhere,” he said as he went to the music centre, stopped the record and turned on the radiogram, tuning it to The Light Programme and turning it up so that nobody would hear me if I called out.
I watched as he left the room and then put my head back, trying to call for help as I struggled to reach the knot at my wrists. It was useless however – he’d put it on top of the binding, so that I could not...
“Trying to get free, are we?”
I turned my head to see him looking at me, with yet another length of cord in his hands. Without any warning, he rolled me over, and I felt him pulling my arms together as the new cords were tied round my elbows.
This had a very strange effect on me – it pulled my shoulders back, and I could feel a couple of buttons on my blouse coming undone as I wriggled around. All that did was get me a light slap on my bottom, as the man said “now stay still – I’m going to have a look round upstairs, and if you’re not where I left you, well...”
I listened to him walk away and up the stairs, and then raised my head, staring at the kitchen door as my legs hung off the end of the lounger. Even if the radio was not turned up I doubt anyone would have heard me calling for help – I could only hear me say “Smbddeehlpmmm...”
As I lay there, I could hear him in the upstairs room, drawers opening and things been dropped on the floor. Realising he wasn’t just looking for mum’s jewels, but probably mine as well, was getting me mad – and then I saw that the door to the hallway was open, and the phone was sitting on the table, calling out to me, saying I had to come and use it to raise the alarm.
Rolling onto my back, I waited for a few minutes, to see if he had heard me, but it was clear he was still upstairs. Taking a deep breath through my nose, I started to try and sit myself up.
And try was probably the right word, because it took me several attempts to get into a seated position, and I had to take a few minutes to get my breathing back to normal. Or as normal as you can when you have a wet cloth stuffed in your mouth and a black scarf then tied so tightly over it I could see the scarf move in and out as I sat there.
Looking down my legs, I then slowly managed to get my ankles uncrossed, feeling the rope rubbing on them as I did so. Eventually, however, I got myself into a seated position at the end of the lounger, flexing my fingers as I started to steel myself to try and stand up.
“Well, I see staying where I told you to stay hasn’t worked.”
I don’t know which made me groan more – the way I was starting to feel from my struggles, the fact some more buttons had started to come undone on my blouse, or that the intruder was standing looking at me.
“Hdnnttt,” I mumbled as he dropped a pillow case on the floor, which jangled slightly as it hit the carpet.
I could only watch as he went towards the kitchen, and returned with a wrapped skein of rope that mummy had bought for a new washing line. He tore the paper cover off and shook it loose, doubling it over, before he knelt in front of me, passed the rope under my legs just in front of the seat, and pulled then together as he crossed the ends and pulled tight.
To my surprise, he then took it around my body, making me lean forward slightly as he wrapped it round my arms and body and then back round, taking the end through each other again, and then another pass round my arms and body lower down. The rope was then taken around my legs, specifically my calves about half way down, and then back round so that the rope crossed and held me in this strange position.
“I need to go now,” he said as he leaned down and lifted my head up. “As I said, my apologies again.”
I watched as he left the house, and sat as still as I could for a few minutes, and then I screamed as loudly as I could, and tried to free myself.
The net effect of that? When mummy and daddy got home later, they found me lying on my side on the floor, covered in sweat, my shoes half way across the floor, and most of our valuables taken. I had rope burns on my arms, wrists and ankles, and my mouth was as dry as a salt desert, but in the end I recovered.
So yes, I could understand how that happened, and I would have said something at that moment in time – had there not been a couple of unexpected arrivals. A man called Jay Edwards and several others, as we all discovered how it felt to be captive.