SMOKE: Caught Me Some Criminals Today

Originally published: 16 August 2005

I'm used to having to deal with intruders with nefarious intentions and fugitives of the law - I've covered my experiences in Smokes like Chasing A Thief, Trouble At The Quickshop and The Hysterical Thief.

But I've never yet apprehended a criminal and it's been high on my list of priorities. A bit hypocritical, I suppose, but there you have it.

Until today. I caught not only one of the most wanted housebreakers and thieves in Claremont, but his vicious little bastard sidekick as well, who looked like the sort of oke who would make Scarface weep in fear.

We have a huge sliding wooden gate in the front of our property, which we usually keep closed and locked to prevent unwanted visitors. But occasionally we leave the gates open if one of us is only going off for a short time in the car, as the gates aren't electronically controlled and it is thus quite a mission to open and close them all the time.

If we go out for longer than half an hour we close them, but today Tashi popped out and wasn't going to be much more than that. So we left the gate open.

About 20 minutes after Tashi left I heard the doorbell ring. I grunted in frustration as it usually happens whenever we leave the gates open and it always means somebody wanting something, so I took my time about getting up.

I went through and as per peered through my lounge blinds, but I couldn't see anyone on my doorstep. So I figured whoever it was had left, and was about to go back to my computer when I got a sixth sense ("I see deeeaaad people, man") which instructed me to go have a look out back.

The alley that runs down the side of our house is minus a gate at the moment - we're getting a new one in next week. It means that when our front gates are open there is clear access all the way to our back garden.

I went through to our back room and peered through the curtains and I spotted a dude standing at our washing line.

Instead of going out back to confront him I rushed to get my trusty cudgel and exited the front of the house, so that I could lock the gate with him inside.

There's no escaping out the back as our back neighbours installed an electric fence earlier this year, so the only exit from our property was back out through the front gates.

But as I opened the front door the dude came out of the alley and as soon as he saw me he bolted. I fetched him a glancing blow on his back with my cosh and he turned around, screaming that there was another guy inside.

He had an evil, scar-ridden face but he was shorter than I, and I screamed at him something about motherfuckers and death by cudgel. He screamed back that his partner was still in the yard, and then I saw the second guy coming out of the alley.

I let the first one go and slammed the gates shut as the second one came towards me. He had nowhere to go and he had to stop a few feet from me, as I stood there waiting for him, tapping the cudgel in my hand.

He was much taller than the first guy and he had weird, double-eyes which looked like they had skew contact lenses in them.

He started blathering on as okes who are cornered always do and no matter what I shouted at him he just kept repeating inane things over and over again. He kept trying to shift past me and I kept hitting him back with the cudgel and then he lifted his shirt and told me I could search him.

I spreadeagled him against my gate and checked his pockets and pants thoroughly by beating at all his pockets and his pants legs with my cosh, and I found nothing. I won't say I drew blood, but he was in for a nasty time later in the evening.

I figured the best I could get him on was trespassing and he'd be out the same evening, so I opened the gate, shoved him out with my cudgel at his back and told him to run. I told him that I was calling the cops and that he should run like a bitch, and with a final swipe at the backs of his legs I sent him packing.

He ran like a bitch.

I went back inside, considered calling the police, was about to do so then got the sixth sense again. I went to the back again and looked out the window and sure enough - the duvet cover that had been hanging on the line was gone.

I'm not particular about linen. But this wasn't any duvet cover - this was Tashi's and my wedding duvet cover and it's the greatest duvet cover I've ever owned.

I remembered it had been on the line and quickly checked in the linen drawer to make sure Tashi hadn't brought it in. But it was nowhere to be found.

I was on my way to the telephone when the car horn sounded three times outside - our prearranged signal when one of us gets home, so the other will come out and open the gate.

I grabbed my cosh and ran outside and frantically motioning for Tashi to open the passenger door I got in. I gave her a quick rundown, telling her to turn and head back up the road.

I had me a driver. In a fast car. I laugh at Tracy Chapman.

I filled Tashi in as we went and on instinct I told her to turn into a side road - and there, right at the top of the road, were the two criminals, walking away hurriedly.

I pointed and yelled and Tashi hit the gas. She told me she'd seen them hovering in the road when she left and had had a nasty feeling about them. I believed her.

In a squeal of tyres we caught up to them at the top of the road and Tashi pulled a fancy sideswipe manoeuvre to block their path.

They were so surprised they didn't bother to run and leaping out of the car - barefoot, and with cudgel in hand - I ran around and confronted them, screaming blue murder about how I was going to kill them.

They started walking up the road fast, but I followed, pushing and prodding at them with the cudgel. The short, evil one tried to muscle in on me on occasion, but that was just silly - never, ever muscle in on an oke who's just lost his fave duvet cover.

I shoved him violently back with the end of my cudgel and continued to harangue them all the way up the road. Both were denying everything vociferously, but the tall one at one point let something slip about how he'd dropped the duvet to one side, and I knew they had taken it.

Tashi in the meanwhile was on the phone to the police and we got all the way up to Rosmead Avenue, where - in rush hour - we all crossed the road. They were trying to split up but I kept herding them back together with violent swipes of my cudgel on either side of them, and they had nowhere to go.

Tashi managed to get across Rosmead Avenue in the car, and was parked next to us as we stood screaming insults and accusations at one another.

Just then a police van drove past, filled with off-duty policemen and women from the Mowbray police department who were on their way home. Tashi got out of the car and flagged them down and they quickly spilled out and had us all surrounded in seconds.

I gave them the story and the pair rounded on each other, each accusing his pal of treachery, and not impressed with this the cops flung them into the back of their van and followed us to our house.

We all traipsed down the alley and round the back - a long line which included myself, the two criminals, Tashi, TBD and about eight police personnel.

And there - lying right at the end of the alley, out of sight of everyone - was the missing duvet, and a pair of Tashi's jeans.

The second guy had obviously been carrying them when he heard my initial altercation with his pal, and dropped them where I couldn't see them so that he'd have nothing of ours on his person when confronted.

Since he hadn't taken them we could only nail him on trespassing charges as I had first suspected, but I wasn't interested in wasting my afternoon at the police station for something that would come to naught.

The excellent Sergeant Northcote advised me that they would fingerprint the guys anyway, and I told him to get them the fuck off my property.

He got them the fuck off my property.

A little while later there was a pounding on our gate, and when I went outside Sergeant Northcote and a constable were standing there.

They said they'd come back to tell me that although the smaller one had no criminal record nor outstanding warrants (I was incredulous - if that oke's never committed a crime in his life then I'm Ray MaCauley), the tall one had 10 warrants of arrest out for him for housebreaking and theft in Claremont and they reckoned they'd been searching for him since 1999.

He's one of the most wanted men in the area. On the Top 10 Most Wanted list.

They said he had scars on his hands which indicated he was once part of the numbers gangs in Pollsmoor and from what I gathered he was going back there for a very long time.

One small victory for me; one major crime bust for Claremont; one new girlfriend for Bubba.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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