Sometimes you have to be cunning to catch a thief

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On The Beat with Inspector Jim Tyner

Sometimes you have to use a bit of cunning to catch a thief. I was part of a plain clothes pro-active team with my colleague, John.

Spalding had been suffering a series of burglaries and all the clues were pointing towards Dwayne and Shaun being responsible. Both had been arrested many times before, but were being elusive this time.

John and I had been tasked with finding them. We visited every known haunt: pubs, friends, family. We asked around, but no one had seen them or wouldn’t tell us if they had. It was all to no avail. For the second part of our shift we decided to walk about and skulk in the shadows in an area where burglaries had been taking place. We might just be lucky enough to catch a burglar while they were burgling.

Well, we walked and skulked for about three hours, but no one was about. It’s soul destroying when you put the effort in and go out on patrol and the burglars don’t have the decency to turn up! It was now 10pm on a Sunday night and getting close to the end of our shift so we decided to walk back to the police station along the riverbank.

As we walked along the riverbank footpath at the rear of Double Street there was a lone figure lurking in the penumbra of a distant street lamp.

This was the days before the street drinkers had taken up residence in that area, so it was unusual to see someone hanging about. John nipped down a side alley out on to Double Street itself and I waited while John looped round on to Albion Street in order to approach the lone figure from the opposite direction. We had him trapped in a pincer movement.

Once I could see John approaching, I then stepped out of the shadows toward the man on the path. On seeing me the man turned and walked straight in to the arms of John. At last something was going right: it was our old friend Shaun, the wanted burglar, who was one half of the duo we had been looking for earlier.

He was quickly arrested by John and then we noticed a holdall on the path next to him. Could this be a burglar’s haul? Was it going to be laden with stolen loot? As I unzipped the holdall, you can imagine my surprise and disappointment when I discovered neatly folded T-shirts, jeans, rolled up socks and underwear. Shaun was packed for going on a long trip.

This was strange. If Shaun was packed for a long-term getaway, why was he hanging about on the riverbank? And where was his inseparable buddy, Dwayne?

As we waited for other officers to come and collect Shaun from us, the penny dropped. Dwayne’s sister lived nearby. It was my guess that Dwayne was visiting his sister for a quick goodbye before leaving town with Shaun. We had to act fast before Dwayne realised Shaun had been arrested. There wasn’t a moment to lose.

John and I returned to the riverbank path and went to the back door of the house where Dwayne’s sister lived. We could hear voices inside. Now, if I knocked on the back door and shouted it was the police, there’s a good chance we wouldn’t be invited in with open arms.

There was also the chance that if Dwayne was in there, he’d make a run for it out the front door, so my colleague John crept round the front to cover the front door.

I walked up to the back door, knocked loudly and stepped in to the shadow so I couldn’t be seen. As I knocked, the voices inside stopped suddenly. Oh dear, had my policeman’s knock given me away? After a long pause Dwayne’s unmistakable voice shouted through the closed door ‘Who is it?’

To this day, I still don’t know what made me say what I said next. On the spur of the moment, I’m afraid I told a little white lie and shouted back ‘It’s Shaun’. As I said this there was a rattle of keys in the door and the sound of bolts being slid back.

The door was opened and there was Dwayne, looking out expectantly for his friend Shaun. I stepped out of the shadows and Dwayne’s eyes fell on me. His expression was one of confusion, quickly changing to one of being crestfallen. But before Dwayne had a chance to react further I grabbed both of his shoulders and pulled him out into the back yard.

Dwayne and I fell to the floor as he started struggling furiously. Out stepped Dwayne’s sister shouting every form of abuse at me, and trying to pull me away from Dwayne. Behind her, out stepped her boyfriend. He was well known to me: I had arrested him many times and he was the one who had previously said ‘Why is it always you? Why is it always me?’ (Spalding Guardian, June 19).

This could turn very nasty very quickly. Thankfully, just as things started to get heated, John ran round from the front to assist me. He had also called for reinforcements and we very quickly had the situation under control.

So, thanks to a bit of luck and a bit of resourcefulness and a tiny untruth in introducing myself as Shaun, we had two burglars incarcerated ready for CID to deal with. Despite a few cuts and grazes, I was euphoric: John and I had caught Spalding’s most wanted!

The only problem was, for weeks afterwards, everyone insisted on calling me Shaun.