Burglary case study: How one family recovered
17 April 2019
We woke up on the Wednesday morning as normal. We had recently got two kittens so we had been shutting them down in the summer room of the house.
Lola, who was eight at the time, went downstairs and one of the kittens was coming up the stairs. She shouted ‘Mummy, why are the kittens out?’ I followed her down thinking my husband hadn’t shut the door properly.
But then I saw all the kitchen cupboard doors were open and I knew something was wrong. Literally every cupboard door and drawer was open downstairs. In the summer room one of the panes of the door had been smashed through and they’d been in every room downstairs.
In the hallway they had obviously been looking for the car keys but luckily hadn’t found them.
They didn’t come upstairs and we hadn’t heard them in the night. They had taken my work bag with purse and laptop and my husband’s wallet and some cash we had on the side. So they took bits and pieces but didn’t get away with that much. When the police came they said they were probably after our cars.
The police came and they were very good. There were no fingerprints, though, so when they left I didn’t expect to hear any more from them.
Some people in Sheffield found my purse and cards and they posted them back to me. We went to where they found them and I found more of my work things and my husband’s wallet. It was like a treasure hunt down this road – they had obviously just driven down the road chucking things out the window for about a mile!
They didn’t try and use the cards they just took the money and kept my work laptop. It was so nice that someone had returned them.
The burglary happened in summer 2017 and then in the autumn the police called and they had found my work laptop doing a house search on a group who had been doing ram raids on shops in town and they had been involved in multiple house burglaries.
The case went to trial and they were sentenced in March this year.
How did it impact you and your family?
It was very scary that morning and we were all in total shock. It was a school morning so I took the girls to the neighbour’s house and they gave them breakfast. They wanted to get to school and carry on with normal stuff. I had a good cry straight away but then you just have to deal with it and get on with things.
At first the girls were really scared in the house. Lola was like a shadow, she couldn’t be left in any room in the house, it was exhausting. Neither of them wanted to sleep alone. The first night it happened neither of them slept much at all. Daisy, who was 11 at the time, still went to school the next day but Lola was shattered.
It was all the things you take for granted, like feeling safe in your own home, which completely disappeared. Daisy had just started secondary school and she was coming home one day a week on her own but she couldn’t do that anymore. She didn’t even want to eat breakfast on her own.
I knew things would get better over time but I didn’t know how long it would take. Weeks after it happened Lola was still by my side all the time and very nervous. It was really hard work and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t know if I should be strict with her or be sympathetic. I didn’t know if I should still be letting them sleep in the same room as us.
What support did you get from Victim Support?
One morning I went to school to drop the kids off and another mum came up and asked if I was ok. I just burst into tears, which is so unlike me. It was then I knew I needed to get some help. At that point I looked back through leaflets from police and came across the Victim Support number. Really I wanted advice for my children and how to help them.
Our case worker, Katie, arranged to come round and she was lovely. We all sat in the lounge and just chatted. At first Lola was quite shy but Daisy chatted away. When she left at first I wasn’t sure how much it had helped but I made another appointment and she came again and we chatted more and she brought some books and activities for the girls.
What I quickly realised was it’s about making time to talk. You don’t want to talk about it all the time but it’s good to surface it and talk about what’s still bothering you and how we can make things better. I think I just wanted someone to flick a switch and make everything normal again but you do need time. You need to make the time and space to talk about everything.
We had about six sessions with Katie and she brought a worry monster for Lola and a book about burglary – the story of some woodland animals that get burgled and it helps explain how different people react. Some of the characters get angry, some get nervous – and it was just a great tool for us to use to discuss our feelings.
Through our sessions with Katie and discussing how we felt we managed to find ways forward – such as leaving the light on in the kitchen at night, which really helped the girls.
Just little things that we might not have discovered if we hadn’t had that space to talk about it. Katie was such a great support for me and gave me lots of positive reinforcement about how we were dealing with things which was great.
Now we’re a year on, we’ve been taking it step by step and we’ve come a long way.
How did you feel?
In the first few days it was very nervewracking especially when I was going to sleep. Then when I was walking to school it felt like someone was walking behind me and watching me – I felt like there was obviously a reason they picked our house and I didn’t know if it was because of us or the things inside. It was hard going to sleep – it was hard doing anything.
How did VS help?
When Katie came round she talked to us and made us laugh about everything - she was saying she could imagine the two men running out with Mum’s bright pink handbag! She would bring Lola and me these special books that told us the story of burglary and how different people can react and she also brought us these little sand things that you make your own pattern with and every layer of colour relates to a happy memory – we had these in our rooms so we could look at them when we were feeling sad.
How do you feel now?
Every time just after Katie had been I always felt a bit of relief that everything was getting better and it would all get back to normal eventually. Now it does feel back to normal – not completely normal but getting there.
Before we were burgled I was supposed to come home from school on my own once a week and now me and one of my best friends are doing that together so we can support each other.
Another thing that helped me was I had a big sleepover with my friends in the room they smashed into to get into the house and that really helped me and made me feel safe having everyone with me in that room the first time since the burglary.
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