When I was around 12 years old I inadvertently invited a burglar into my home. It was during the school holidays and I was alone in the house. A man rang the door bell. Were Mummy and Daddy at home as he had come to clean the windows? I said they weren’t and closed the door. He rang the bell again. Could he at least look at the windows to enable him to make an estimate of how much it would cost to clean them all? That sounded a reasonable enough request and I let him follow me back into the hall.
I was suddenly pulled to the floor and a large knife placed at my throat.
“Scream and I will cut your throat,” he threatened.
Oddly enough I remained completely calm.
“Put the knife away,” I said as he demanded to know where the money was.
"There is no money,”I insisted, completely bewildered by his question..
The knife vanished back into his clothing. He said he was going to tie me up in the bedroom. At first he wanted to use a petticoat my “sister” had given me for Christmas. I did not want him contaminating it with his touch.
“Use those tights”, I suggested.
He tied my hands to the bedrail.
“Aren’t you going to gag me?" I queried
“Do you want me too”, he said in surprise.
What I didn’t want to do was to give him any reason to panic and produce that knife again. Just as he was about to gag me there was a sound at the door as my mother returned home. The burglar raced out of my bedroom and out of the house past my stunned mother. She untied me and rang for the police before yelling out of the window for help.
The police took down my statement and later drove me over to New Scotland Yard to look at the mug shots. It is true that they all begin to look alike after a while. I could not positively identify anyone. There was one man who looked rather similar to the burglar but I didn’t want to say anything in case I was mistaken.
Back at our house a freelance journalist persuaded my mother to let him in. Unbeknownst to both of us he had a concealed camera which he used to take a picture of me, which appeared on the front page of the Evening Standard. It even warranted a few lines in the nationals. Because there were so many people trying to get a story my mother sent me to stay with one of her friends, who kept a lighter in the form of a replica gun. I would play with the lighter and imagine it was a real gun that I could use to shoot the burglar dead.
That incident has always made me wary of knifes. Once, a few years later, a school friend was playing around with a knife in the kitchen and I locked myself in the bathroom until she had promised to put it back in the drawer.
As to why the burglar thought we had money concealed in the house, I have always wondered whether it had anything to do with a tongue in cheek and rather foolish postcard my mother sent to our house when we were holidaying abroad, writing that she hoped our jewellery was well hidden. Did some less than scrupulous postman see this message and pass it and our address on to someone else?
When I returned to school in September a classmate asked if it was true that I had been burgled as she had read about it in the Sun. I said it wasn’t me and then admitted that it was indeed me as my name was far too unusual for it to be credible that it has happened to someone else. Besides, I deemed it was far less humiliating to admit to inviting a burglar into your own home than openly admitting to reading the Sun!