I love the sound of the cell door clanging shut on a burglar: it’s the ultimate job satisfaction.
In the past few weeks I have had extra patrols out and about at night looking for burglars. There is some good work going on behind the scenes that I am unable to talk about while enquiries continue.
But this has brought to mind a time when I was tasked with looking for burglars who had been targeting the Royce Road estate. It was 10pm on a moonless September evening, with an autumnal nip in the air. I had just parked my unmarked police car up in Royce Road. It was a quiet night, with no one stirring but a local cat prowling along some front gardens.
As I watched the cat I noticed a man who was very well known to me: we’ll call him Billy Burglar.
Billy was stood in a garden in one of the cul-de-sacs off Royce Road.
As my eyes adjusted to the gloom I could see that Billy was motionless on the front path of one of the houses. He was staring at me as I was looking at him.
Billy and I had a history. He had assaulted me on a couple of occasions in the past and had a nasty violent reputation. I don’t mind admitting that Billy scared me. He was unpredictable.
Now, I should explain that being scared doesn’t make me a coward; it makes me human. Avoiding confrontation would be cowardly, but I was never one to avoid trouble.
However, it would be prudent to call for another officer to join me if I was going to approach Billy.
Unfortunately, all other officers were busy. So I continued to watch Billy. He was stood on the path of a house where he didn’t live. He just stayed there, looking at me. I waited for back up. I waited and waited. Forty agonising minutes slowly passed and Billy never moved. I got the impression that he thought he was in the shadows and hoped that I couldn’t see him.
I was in one of our CID cars, and Billy knew all our cars, so it was obvious that he knew who I was.
My stomach was starting to knot up with the anticipation of an impending violent confrontation.
Just as I was deciding that I was going to have to approach Billy without waiting for help, Billy forced the issue by finally walking down the path to the front gate to where a bike was leaning against the front fence. I couldn’t allow Billy to cycle off.What if he had just committed a burglary? What if the bike was stolen?
I got out of my car and ran across to Billy just as he was climbing on the bike. Although Billy knew me, I flashed my warrant card at him and identified myself. Before I could say any more, Billy shouted: ‘Why have you been trying to stare me out?’ I was still a couple of metres away as I started to explain that I thought he was acting suspiciously and I was going to search him.
‘I’m frightfully sorry PC Tyner, but I’m not going to allow that to happen’ is NOT what Billy said, but in his own monosyllabic way, that’s what he meant. And his intention was reinforced as he threw his bike at me.
Yes, there was a flying bike hurtling towards me (did I mention that Billy was incredibly strong.) The more perspicacious among you will already have worked out that this was not going to end well. The bike landed on the ground with such a thud that it buckled the rear wheel. I managed to side step the bike as Billy turned tail and ran up the cul-de-sac towards a small alleyway that lead to Holbeach Road.
Billy ran from my sight and I was a couple of seconds behind him. As I ran in to the darkened alley, Billy was waiting for me in a half-crouched position. He sprung up and threw a right hook at me.
Luckily, he missed me but knocked my glasses flying, breaking them. Now this was the time before CS spray and taser, but I had a torch in my hand, and I managed to get one good swing at Billy, knocking him to the ground. I then jumped on top of Billy and kept him restrained on the ground until help arrived. I knew that if Billy had a chance to get up, I would be in big trouble.
Help was about three minutes away, but that’s a long long time when you’re struggling to restrain someone. The first officer to come to my aid was my colleague John (who I had previously left on the roadside, Spalding Guardian, August 7). Once we got a very belligerent Billy handcuffed, we took him to the police station and searched him properly.
I never did find out what he was doing on the garden path: I suspect that when Billy saw me, it prevented him from carrying out whatever nefarious deed he had planned. However, in his pockets I found some cannabis and some evidence linked to a previous burglary a couple of days earlier.
In many ways our fight against burglars remains unchanged and my officers are still out there actively stopping and searching those people of our twilight community who we suspect of being involved in burglaries.
So, whether it’s my policing reminisces or the next generation of ‘thief-takers’ that have been out there in recent weeks, I still delight to the sound of the cell door clanging shut on a burglar.