Muriel Smith is in her 80’s. She has left her house on the Britannia Estate to go to the Pheonix Club because tonight is bingo night and the chance to meet other older people and the younger ones who volunteer to help them socialise and forget about some of their problems.
Tonight they have a chance to get £2 for a line or possibly £8 for a full house.
She has a family, but they live elsewhere in the country. Her husband died a number of years ago. Apart from some friendly neighbours and her two times weekly friends at the Pheonix Club, she is alone.
Somehow the telephone is not the same. She will have the opportunity to have a bit of a yarn about stuff and put a few things right, in a way that they do when they meet.
The Pheonix Club is a forbidding place. Within the graffiti splashed exterior one can lose oneself when inside as you look out through the mesh covered or barred windows and forget that anything horrible exists outside. There is nothing of value left inside. Even the cups and saucers are locked away in sturdy cupboards. They even bring in their own cakes and biscuits. Yet still the locals insist on burgling the place with a monotonous and persistence that could be what one might call a grounding in the fine art of entering as a trespasser with intent to steal. Yet there is nothing to steal, ever. The costs inflicted by the intruders cost the local authority a small fortune and there is always talk of closure. Presumably as someone else’s plan to turn in some income for the sale to boost the CV as well as the local authority coffers.
Muriel Smith enjoys the evening, doesn’t win a penny. But that’s not the point. She bids a hearty farewell to her friends and makes the short journey home. This is where her problems begin.
She opens the door, there is a sudden draught. This is odd. As she turns on the light she is confronted by most people worst nightmare. Perhaps she has come into the wrong house ? No, this is the door the key fitted, it must be hers ?
Absolutely nothing is in place. Absolutely nothing is where it was left. Then she can see nothing. She is simply unable to grasp what had happened. She begins to cry. As she moves about the house it is clear that she has had an unwelcome visitor. Room after room is the same. A bloody mess. Everything that should have been put away is now simply everywhere. Her life and all its worth contained in hundreds of black and white photgraphs strewn about with no concept of her achievements and her memories. Clothing, bedding, utensils and appliances dragged out from every cupboard, wardrobe and drawer and discarded with no thought for the consequences.
Then she sees that note. That note left by one of us.
Earlier a passer by had seen one of the Britannia’s finest lurking before disappearing around the back. We have had a bit of a run on dwelling breaks recently so as we were close, we got there quickly. I got there first.
I got pongo inside, bang to rights. He never saw me coming. He never saw my mate coming. He was in for a shock. We got him, his bag of booty from at least another four places. He was on bail for more of the same and never, and I mean never, have I smelt such a disgusting smell as when pongo has no trainers on. I am surprised that they don’t do some form of protest disintegration.
For both Muriel Smith and for pongo, this is where it begins.
This is where the great legal processes swing into action and the claims of the Government fade off into the ether. Pongo is innocent until proven and the wheels of justice, along with the collective protective efforts of the law come into place to protect the suspect. Mrs Smith………..well she just gets in the way and makes things a lot more complicated.
Muriel Smith has her pension. She is worried about buying her food, paying for her heating and how she is going to afford to get a new window at the back. She is worried because she wants to tidy the place up and we have asked her not to. We have to give our SOCO a chance to get some further incriminating evidence whilst we get the chance. She is upset because she has been burgled. She is upset because she has visitors in her house and the place is a mess and somehow feels this shows us that she is an untidy person. There was nothing of any value to steal. The irreplaceable gold chain from her husband, the rings of an unimaginable sentimental value are still around her neck and on her fingers. Her money in the pot for shopping and in case she needs a few pounds for something unexpected is gone and the pot smashed on the floor.
Pongo is incarcerated. Of course he has the full support of everyone in his bid for denial. He is the one with all the rights and protection. Pongo simply does not give a toss about anyone else. He cares little for himself. All that matters is his next fix and he cares not what he does to do this, the grief it causes and even sees himself as some form of victim, keenly supported by those who justify their positions in doing so.
Muriel Smith has nothing. She is worried because she has to deal with most of this alone. She will have friends and her family will visit. But she faces evenings and nights in a house, her house, where someone else has been. An unwelcome intruder. Her castle has been violated and her mind will play tricks and cause her untold misery and worry. Muriel Smith has to deal with her existence being in a house where she now feels vulnerable and alone.
Pongo has to deal with the wheels of the system trying to get him released on bail, again, because his freedom is paramount and although he is innocent until proven guilty, he has no burden of responsibility to carry for what he has done to Muriel Smith and all the others like her. There is something badly wrong with the system when the system gives more consideration to the offender than the victim.
For one brief moment, when I was in the hallway of Muriel Smith’s house, I knew that suddenly the rules had changed and that pongo was suddenly in the position where responsibility for his actions had caught up with him. He could lie, cheat, steal and rob as much as he wanted to but then and there he was trying to deal with something he had not expected.
He has only one regret, not that he was in someone’s house burglarising the place, but that he was caught. I was there as a result of his actions and suddenly he was responsible in such a way that he never thought existed.
He still had the aftermath and the total protection of the legal processes but for the look of absolute horror on his face, in my torchlight as I took away his night vision in the darkness of Muriel Smith’s house………money can’t buy that feeling.
Pongo, me and my dog……………priceless.
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