Monday, 14 May 2007

2002 - Armed Robbery, Agoraphobia & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

So there you's not too bad. You have got the relationship you were waiting for all your life, a new and perfectly behaved son, your partner's business is going pretty well and you are slowly but surely rolling back the influence of agoraphobia, when... BAM! life gives you an almighty knock.


On 9th October, 2002 an incident occurred which would massively change Marie's life in the short term, and still affects it now...

Marie, Joseph
and I had been out - shopping, of course - and returned in high spirits. I took Joseph to our living room while Marie called into our business premises to show the results of her shopping activity to Laraine, one of the members of the staff with whom she was very friendly.

About half an hour later, Laraine, having just checked our cash holdings, was crouched over the safe when Marie noticed, out of the corner of her eye, some activity to her left. When she turned round, she was confronted by an armed man in a hooded jacket and wearing a balaclava.

"Don't move" he growled in low voice, but there was no chance of Marie paying him any attention. Panic took over and she fled the premises with the almost superhuman speed of the very frightened.

Laraine didn't have time to react to all this activity before she felt a cold metal tube press into her neck and a voice growl "Give me all the money - NOW" .

"Robert, we're getting robbed! Robert, we're getting robbed!" It was an almost unintelligible scream, but I could make out enough of what Marie was saying to make to go to the business premises.

"No! Don't go! You'll get killed!" Marie screamed while trying to physically restrain me; but my instincts took over - I wasn't concerned about being robbed, but I WAS concerned about the safety of my employees. I ran to the staff entrance of the building.

Too scared to look around, Laraine had handed out all the cash in the safe. The cold metal tube left her neck and still she did not move. Then, when she heard a voice yell, "Nobody get up for half an hour, or I'll kill you!", she ventured a look around and saw two figures running away from the entrance to the building.

As I entered the premises, I could see that the robbers weren't there any more. There was just a sobbing Laraine and a couple of members of the public. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a couple of people run past a window. Again, instinct took over and without thinking about what I was doing, or the consequences of doing it, I was outside running faster than I thought possible, in pursuit of two young men whom I believed to be the robbers. I could hear our burglar alarm began to sound as I followed them to their getaway car, but they had managed to get into it before I could stop them. Now they were prepared to drive over me to escape. At this point I did the sensible thing and let them past.

I ran, somewhat more slowly, towards my house to see a hysterical Marie being comforted by some neighbours. She calmed down somewhat when she saw me and after a short while we both went to the business premises to see how everyone was there, and for me to call the police with details of the getaway car and its occupants.

Laraine was sobbing uncontrollably while Mary, the other member of staff on duty, was trying to console her. Outside, the members of the public involved in the incident were swapping stories with each other and relating their experiences to a gathering crowd of curious onlookers. Marie went over to Laraine and Mary while I phoned the police.


The aftermath -

Marie - added Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to her conditions. Had to leave the house for a week. Couldn't go into the business premises for several months. Became paranoid about unlocked doors, young men, anyone wearing a hooded jacket. Became scared of places which she considered to be in the high risk category of being robbed - Petrol Filling Station forecourts, off-licences, convenience stores etc. Was scared of the robbers coming back to "silence" her. Heightened anxiety in general. More agoraphobic.

Laraine - suffered seriously from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It seriously affected her life and put a lot of pressure on her marriage. Didn't seek help for over a year - she was too scared of "reliving" her experience. Was also scared of the robbers coming back to silence her. Had to change her car because it had "too many windows". Never returned to work for me, but has more or less got over it now.

Mary - wasn't at all fazed by the experience. She was a Londoner by birth and spent the majority of her life there. Had worked in off-licences and had experienced other robberies, although never with a gun. She had been slightly injured by falling when a robber pushed her out of the way, but turned up for work next day.

Me - like Mary, wasn't fazed by the experience. I'd spent most of my life in Northern Ireland, where armed robberies were commonplace, murders, bombings, beatings, extortion, intimidation....all "normal" while I lived there.

The burglars - were heroin addicts from Birmingham. One of them had a sister who lived (and still lives) locally. It was the 20th "job" in 12 days, and their last. They successfully escaped to Bristol where one of them negotiated a very large drug deal. When the deal was to take place, he got robbed, seriously beaten and left for dead. He spent 5 days on life-support before an almost full recovery. The police went to his address and found his accomplice. When prosecuted, they eventually admitted their guilt and no one was asked to testify at their trial. Only Mary felt secure enough to go to the trial (I was too busy). They are both still in jail (2007).


thejunkyswife said...

Robberies are interesting...I keep finding my life intersecting with robbers and parents met in a bank robbery (father was the first cop on the scene...mother was a teller). My husband was a pharmacy robber for a while...a veritable drugstore cowboy. As a child, I was hanging out at my mom's bank one time when it got robbed. As an adult, I was robbed at gunpoint in my car...funny, and the effect on your mind is strange, too...

Robert said...

Junky's wives are interesting, too. Like, most people would say why do they stay with their husband? I prefer not to pass judgment. One of my daughters is a junky's wife and as long as he gets his fix he's a good husband, father to their kids... Problems - only when money is short, but he's GOT to have his stuff. Another daughter married a heavy drugs junky but he gave it all up to take his relationship forward. That was a couple of years ago, so perhaps it will last...

Ruby said...

Wow Marie, I can't imagine adding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to an already painful lifestyle and still managing to be a great mother and wife you have come very far and should be proud of your abilities.


Nathan said...

You rarely get to read such complete incidents. Usually the post ends with robbery but rarely with burglar being caught and thrown behind bars. I installed a home alarm two days ago and i can say that i have reduced the risk of my home being robbed