Laptop thefts 12: innocent witness, treated as suspect

While the gaffer paid off his 2012 fine (see part 11), Saturday’s thug arrived (see part 5). Late of course, expecting me to shake hands, bleating he was bitterly disappointed I refused. It never was and never will be my custom, to shake hands with a policeman who used pressure to make me confess to something I was and am totally innocent of.

Instead, I started to complain loudly about Saturday evening. After all: now I had the gaffer and his uniformed lackeys as witnesses. So thug told me to shut up. He warned a colleague and walked me to interview room 2.

He was not interviewing me as an innocent witness, but as a suspect. He wanted to be able to use the statement against me. According to him, me shutting windows so window cleaners were able to do their job and sewing innocently in my room on my own, was highly suspect behaviour. (See part 1) A few sneers about no lawyer being present followed.

Friends and acquaintances had advised me to stick to a mantra and use my right to remain silent. Quite a few had a legal background; some working for national courts, others for international ones, or Interpol and such. They deemed thug incompetent and unprofessional. So it was mantra unless charged, accused, arrested. In that case, my situation not only changed: I would be entitled to free legal aid. They had also told me to try find out who actually accused me.

So I responded to each question with the mantra or a variation: “I have nothing to do with any laptop and/or camera theft. I am not involved in anything. I am totally innocent. I have the right to remain silent”.

I learned who accused me: the victim. I also learned, thug had not bothered to check if there had been an earlier camera thefts from the same person, the same room, involving other window cleaners – or whoever the victim had accused at that time. Provided she had reported that earlier theft of which I had some vague recollection. (See part 6).

I didn’t know whom or what to believe. Both victim and police thug had lied to me before. I only knew I was totally innocent. But if she was now accusing me whereas I was innocent, I might have a case against her. For making false accusations against someone, or slander a person, is illegal.

Thug decided to just copy and paste my mantra to his questions.
He continued with his usual intimidation.
Questions ranged from what time I leave the house, how late I return, to a few actually related to the case of the missing laptop – and camera. (See part 3)

After about 30 minutes, thug had had enough. He claimed I had blown my chances.
He speculated the prosecutor was going to take a dim view of my behaviour.
Fuming I said: “So what?”
This nettled thug.
However, friends had already told me, it was unlikely things would get that far. There was no proof, I was an innocent witness, any prosecutor would throw the case out.
I had totally had it with being treated like the accused, while being totally innocent.

Thug pushed a button and left the room to collect the printed statement.
Ah – even his computer, the printer, the software had had enough.
Something went wrong and thug had to reprint.
He left the room again, came back, and shoved the paperwork towards me ordering to read and sign it.

I got my own pen and … noticed my answer to his 2nd question was already wrong.
So as a teacher, I routinely struck a fat line through it.

Thug went bananas.
According to him, one is not allowed to scratch through a statement – even if it contains faulty or fibbed police answers.
Thug left to collect a third print from the printer.
I know it’s childish, but I suspected everything in the room was being recorded – though I had not given any permission.
But if I’m right, my rude middle finger gesture is on record.

The new print was shoved my way. By then, I had asked for a copy of my statement, but been told I could not have one, as only lawyers were allowed access to statements.
So I had notebook and pen ready and started writing.

Thug went berserk! According to him, copying out a whole statement was illegal.
I was not interested in copying out three A-4 pages full of my mantra.
I jotted down the unique data above my statement, so a lawyer might lift my statement even faster out of the system, if necessary.

On rereading the statement, I noticed my mantra had been copied correctly about 12 times out of 14. Not wanting to risk being molested by thug, I signed anyway.
In case I was charged, arrested, held – using this statement – I would automatically get free legal aid. Then I could talk things over with a lawyer and retract any earlier statements, jog my memory, add, change – whatever.

Of course, my signature was at the top of the otherwise empty third page. Or as I had been told by former colleagues: so lots of fancy things might happen to a statement. Like for example: pages being added, pages being removed.
With hindsight, I should have signed not only the third, but also the first and second page and included the page numbers in my signature on each single page.

Regardless: thug continued stating I was discrediting my case. What case?
I was an innocent witness and his case was based on false accusations by the victim and police.
So I whined if he was going to hold me, charge me, arrest me – so I could get free legal aid and if not: I was free to go. Grabbing my bags, I went for the door …

WRONG! Thug had kept the best bit for the last: he said the last step of any interview was fingerprints and a mug shot.

WRONG! I had accidentally checked this and been told police had no legal right whatsoever to ask for fingerprints, DNA, mug shot – whatever – of me.

So I flatly refused and stalked out of the room with thug sputtering and trying to intimidate and terrorise me some more: it was not the last I had seen of him, I blew my chance to cooperate, now police would get my prints and pic whenever it suited them.

So by using my legal rights as an innocent witness, by not caving in under threats, by not incriminating myself, by not getting myself arrested for what might have been a theft or a scam done by someone else … I had ensured I would be in for more harassment and pestering by police.

When I stalked past the counter, the gaffer had long left.
I sincerely prayed, Gaffer had laundered money and had had the last laugh.


Laptop thefts 11: at the police station

At the police station, two men in swimming trunks wearing flip-flops were hanging on the left part of the counter. Behind the counter, an uniformed policewoman was dealing with them. In front of the right part of the counter was parked a dark-red scoot-mobile, containing a gaffer and lots of plastic bags.

The flip-flop business showed off their muscles and tattoos to the blond by striking poses. The gaffer was sagging in his scoot, looking like he was either already drunk or busy dying. He hardly reached up halfway the counter. He was involved in a lengthy discussion with a policeman.

Police did a lot of talking and explaining in the air.
Gaffer now and then mumbled a response to a bag.

I made a crowd. So an uniformed policeman who had obviously been hiding behind a glass panelled wall, shifted his chair from “thinking mode” into upright mode. He stood up, disappeared from sight, reappeared, opened a door, and went to the right hand side of the counter.
Gaffer was sagging even more over the plastic bags and against that part of the counter.

The policeman joined the right-hand discussion, by stretching over the counter and talking down to the gaffer, who was now close to hanging horizontally over his bags and scoot.
Gaffer seemed barely conscious, but still muttered.

The police man stretched some more, to explain something down the depth to where gaffer was hanging. Gaffer told his plastic bag: “No, it’s not true!”

The policeman decided it might look client-unfriendly, if the lot of them continued talking down to the gaffer with an audience present. So he walked round the counter and tried to explain some more at ground floor level.

A dark-haired police woman joined the right side of the counter.
The police force claimed something. Gaffer denied it. I waited.

After a while, one policeman gave up and walked back to his place of authority, behind the counter.

The tattoos had flip-flopped out of the station and the blond policewoman joined the discussion.
Gaffer claimed he had paid. Force denied: it was logged in their system.
Gaffer was pre-system, so muttered another denial to his bag and said he’d go. Police said they were keeping him, till he’d paid the money.

Gaffer was getting nowhere, so changed tactics and said he didn’t remember. Force said it dated from 2012.
Gaffer kind of wheezy rattled.

One policeman had had enough. His colleagues ought to be able to deal with this.
He barked what I wanted. I handed over my ID and “invitation”.
They were inspected, checked, handed back.
I was told to sit and wait for my police thug (see part 5), right next to Gaffer’s scoot.

Force said he’d not paid a 2012 fine of about 500 Euro.
Gaffer said he had no money.
Apart from his scoot, he certainly looked the part.

Gaffer repeated he had no money. Force said they couldn’t let him go.
Gaffer changed tactics again: he had some money. Force asked how much.
Gaffer said he had 400 Euro. Force answered they needed the whole amount.
Gaffer claimed he had 450 Euro. Force repeated they couldn’t release him till all was paid.
Gaffer said he might have to go home to get more money. Force said he couldn’t leave the station.
Gaffer said he wanted a receipt. Force said he could use his bank card.

Gaffer seemed to cave in. He said he had the money.
Force started to rummage behind the counter for a machine to process bank payments.

Gaffer said he didn’t trust banks. Force wondered aloud, how he was going to cough up the money.
Gaffer said he had more than enough. Force remained sceptical.

Gaffer – sitting very upright, sober and quite perky in his scoot – said he had the complete sum, in cash, in one of his plastic bags – and he demanded a receipt, for he was sure his 2012 fine would otherwise remain “unpaid” in the system.
He demanded proof of payment!

Three of the force remained baffled behind the counter.
The other one zoomed round it, knelt right next to the scoot, because Gaffer started pulling out bank notes from a plastic bag.

Silently, I applauded Gaffer.
He’d kept at least three police officers totally occupied with his spiel.

Idly I wondered, if the cash money would be white, grey, or black.
Not for one moment did I doubt, Gaffer was perfectly capable of using a police station to launder money.

Laptop thefts 10: Advice

Over two weeks after having been an innocent witness of what might or might not have been a laptop theft, to which later was added a might have happened or might not have happened camera theft …

You still there? If not: see part 1 and related posts.

If you had asked me earlier, if I had deemed my treatment by police being possible in a civilised country which prides itself on being an EU member state and is quick to use its “right” to criticize and accuse other countries of trampling all over civil and legal rights, I would have raised an eyebrow. But probably have answered you it might be possible but unlikely.

Now of course, I had first-hand experience of what “innocent till proven guilty” in this country now means. After receiving an “invitation” to get to a local police station for a suspect-interview, instead of a witness-interview, it was time to get advice.

The credit crisis, banking crisis, financial crisis, any crises has been used to cut back access to free or affordable legal aid here. This has been going on for decades in practically all EU member states, where inhabitants had access to free or affordable legal advice and aid.

There is now only one office left here, where a first advice is free. So I cycled to it, joined the long queue waiting for this overworked office to open, then got a number, sat down, waited.

Once it was my turn, I went to the counter and while telling what had happened Saturday (see part 5), broke down. The trainee certainly got a hands-on, swim or sink introduction to legal aid to innocent, witnesses having been subjected to police intimidation.

Like friends earlier, she advised to lodge a formal complaint against the policeman involved. It was totally unacceptable and definitely unprofessional behaviour!

Despite friends and now legal aid urging me to file such a complaint, any victim of similar treatment will understand I was wary to do so – before the scheduled interview at the police station. I was totally convinced any complaint would be used against me.

One of many things I wanted advice about was also, if blogging about what had happened might get me into trouble. What a relief to be told that posting about what had happened and how I had experienced things, was not illegal. It might even be used by lawyers as a basis for additional statements in case this ever became necessary.

The bad news: I’d have to deal with the police thug on my own during the suspect-interview at the station. Getting a lawyer involved at what should have been marked a witness-interview, at this stage would cost over 300 Euro per hour and that was a waste of money. Only if police were going to charge or arrest me, would I be entitled to free legal aid.

As I was innocent, I was advised to stress I was an innocent witness, not involved in anything – not in any laptop theft nor camera theft – and state I was using my legal right to remain silent. At the same time, I was advised to try and find out, if anybody had accused me.

Laptop thefts 9: ripples

About two weeks after the theft, the immediate after-effects were becoming clear. It was like the effect of a stone having been thrown into a pond. I suspected the fanning out ripples had only just started.  (See earlier posts, starting from part 1)

We tenants had been used to leaving doors open, trusting nobody would violate privacy and territory. That had already started to change before the theft. With maintenance guys showing up unannounced, members of groups renting rooms on the ground floor level deciding to have a decco and wandering everywhere, plus other incidents – most of the time I was not on the right floor, the doors of my place were locked. They were always locked, when I left the premises.

My gold coloured watch with brown leather straps, as well as a bracelet had gone missing several weeks ago? I still had not located them. Before the theft, I had presumed they would be somewhere among my belongings. But now I was no longer sure. I never locked doors, when I went showering – giving anyone free access to rummage through belongings for a considerable time. I started to lock my door even when going for a shower.

The victim had started to lock her doors about two days after the theft. She locked them, even when needing to go to the bathroom.

Another tenant, who had been out of the house during the laptop theft, had started to lock her doors even when she had to cross the landing.

Interaction between various tenants had always run up and down a scale from ice-age cold to spending days on end in each other’s rooms. Interaction between some tenants had been maintained by using layers of false goodwill and hypocrite attitudes.  Now cracks were starting to appear.

I suspected these would increase and fraught relations would not benefit from what had occurred. Some tenants were already suspected more than others in this affair.

As things did not look bright for me, on receiving an evellope with an “invitation” to come to a local police station, I decided to seek advise.

Laptop thefts 8: buckling

Tuesday, over a week after the theft (see previous posts, from part 1 onwards), I had gone through backups of letters and mails I had sent to friends over the past years. I seemed not to have mentioned an an earlier theft of a camera from the same person and room anywhere.

Neither had I found anything about it, while skimming my diaries and mails. But one of my diaries did contain a story about an earlier break-in and theft. It had occurred a while ago. Apparently, witnesses had reported a man had thrown a brick through a ground floor window, grabbed the computer or laptop, climbed on a bike and sped off.

I presumed my memory had tricked me. I was no longer sure there had been an earlier camera theft from the same person, quite similar as the theft of the laptop now – and possibly also including a camera.
I had also noticed, I actually made a mistake regarding how the door to the victim’s room opened.
It is in a kind of separate hall on that landing and does open into the room. But when opened, it may or may not block the view towards her dining room table. Regardless, the only way to have a clear view into her room, was to stand right in front of that door.

Even if an earlier camera theft had occurred, the victim would have to be willing to confirm it. After all, such a theft from the same person, the same room, under similar circumstances – but with another person or persons being accused – was too much of a coincidence.

By then, I was no longer sleeping nor eating well. I was unable to concentrate or focus. I made mistakes with events I was offering and scheduling. Clients who contacted me, to tell me they were going to take along non-paying friends to outings even though the guest lists had closed weeks ago, received a confrontational “No”, instead of diplomatic customer relation enhancing turn-downs. I even forgot scheduled events I was going to host for friends. Since the police thug’s visit, I could not focus nor function. (See part 5)

I could not concentrate on courses I was taking and supposed to complete well before September. Friends inviting me to come and stay with them for a while, were turned down. Under the circumstances, accepting invitations for a free or semi-free stay abroad, did not feel right.

If police was convinced it was okay to hassle, intimidate, accuse an innocent witness like me, because they were after an easy solution, would surely misinterpret a short holiday abroad.

There might be people in this country, still believing in “innocent till proven guilty” – it seemed it was no longer how the system and its manikins worked.

I wished I had followed my ordinary Monday morning routine.
I wished I had realised me moving out of the premises, instead of tolerating bad living-conditions because I needed cheap lodgings.

Though I had slowly managed to start putting my life back on the rails and made a start sorting out my own and other’s problems – for the umpteenth time – it looked like my life was going to be shattered yet again.

I did not know if I would have the strength to cope with everything.

Laptop thefts 7: friends

By Monday, mails and text messages from friends started to arrive. One texted a name of a family lawyer. I doubted a divorce lawyer might be useful.

Another texted from Paris, giving a name and advising to contact this friend through LinkedIn. This lawyer was living in Scandinavia.

One was unable to help straight away, as there had been heavy rainfall and the cellar of his partner’s home had flooded.
But he wondered what had happened to the basic corner stone of this country’s legal and justice system: presumed innocent till proven guilty.
Had that gone out of the window together with the laptop?
Moreover, there was nothing to connect me to the vanished laptop – provided it had disappeared.
Police had no clues, so they were intimidating people hoping to crack one and get a confession. How deep this country and its police had sunk.

Ever since fingerprints had to be handed in – and were stored in a database – to obtain the obligatory passport or ID-card here, I had known “innocent till proven guilty” had left this country.
In this country, everybody is now “guilty until proven innocent”.

A few others mailed, outraged at what had happened. What kind of third world dictatorship country was I living in? Who’d accused me? What proof was there? I was innocent, there was no proof, the case would be thrown out of court – provided someone was stupid enough to let it get that far. The case would collapse. And police knew this! They were wasting time and tax-payers’ money.
No idea who’d accused me and of what. I had not stolen the laptop, had not stolen the camera – but could not prove it.

One friend mailed and ordered me to vet the policeman. He sounded like a phoney and were those women playing a dirty trick on me? I should keep my cool. I had nothing to fear.
I did not think the policeman had been a phoney one: just a thug policeman.

A former colleague wondered if correct procedures had been followed. He urged me to launch a serious complaint, as no innocent witness could be treated like this in this country. Witnesses and even criminals had rights! This policeman had seriously misbehaved!
I felt sick, had not eaten nor slept properly for close to 48 hours now. Filing a complaint was not top of my list. How on earth was I going to be believed, if police had already concluded I must be guilty.

Another friend took a dim view of the whole handling of the theft: Kafkaesk. A week later and police had come no further than witness intimidation? It might have been an insurance scam.
I did not know about procedures nor about my rights. When I had been a witness of anything, police had always treated me kindly and decently and taken a witness statement at my home.

This was my reason for trusting the policeman, who had responded by intimidating, treatening, upsetting me Saturday evening. (See part 5)
I had never been anywhere near the laptop and had not even known about the camera! I was an innocent witness – and that was enough for police to bully, intimidate, threaten, accuse me.

From now on, I would never ever trust police again, nor speak to a policeman on my own.
People were right: they were no use and should not and could not be trusted.

Laptop thefts 6: memory playing tricks?

After having been treated by the police thug as the laptop thief, instead of an innocent witness, I hardly slept. (See part 1 and related posts.)

Early Sunday morning, what had been jarring popped to the surface.Was I dreaming? Was my memory playing tricks? Or was I right and had the phrase about bucket and camera been used before? (See part 3)

Like the person working somewhere downstairs Monday morning, the camera had dropped out of the story. The victim and miss spare-key had told me, not only the two window cleaners had been working in the house and at the back. They had told me someone else had been working at ground floor level, at the back.
I had seen the window cleaners. I had never seen that other person.

The laptop had gone missing Monday morning.
Tuesday morning, the victim had told me she also missed a camera.

Was my memory right and had there been an earlier theft of a camera?
A theft of a camera from the same table, the same room, the same person – but much earlier?

If the thug was right, that very same person had lied to me about the window cleaners having been interviewed at the police station Tuesday afternoon at 15:00. Had she been playing some kind of sich joke? (See part 5)

Or had the lie been part of his intimidation to make an innocent witness crack and admit to a deed she had not done, because it suited and solved his case?

Had a camera been stolen as well as the laptop?
Had another camera been stolen as well, but a while ago ?

If my memory was not playing tricks, when had that earlier theft occurred? I seemed to vaguely remember a discussion between me, my upstairs neighbour, and possibly her spare-key friend.
If my memory was not playing tricks, I had been standing on their landing, close to the stairs.
Someone else had been suspected. If the phrase about bucket and camera had been used earlier, it had also been a window cleaner.

I wanted to check my memory, so a large part of my Sunday was spent skimming the diaries I keep.
But either the theft had occurred before I had started living there.
Or it had occurred during the stressful time when I was juggling my problems and caring for a sick relative.
It had been a fraught and exhausting time, during which my life and problems and not had priority and the relative had.
There were long, blank periods between entries and apparently, nothing about a camera.

Yet I felt pretty sure, the suggestion a bucket might have been involved in removing a camera from the house, was not new.

However, I doubted police would bother checking earlier thefts.
They had a suitable scapegoat, while expenses remained within budget and case solved would enhance their monthly crime solving targets.

That I was not involved and totally innocent, was of no importance at all.

Laptop thefts 5: Saturday evening

All went quiet for a while on the laptop-front. By Thursday, I did try to figure out which police station might be handling the case. There were several prospective candidates and I hadn’t a clue.

Friends mailed me not to worry. I had other issues on my plate.
After all: police knew where I lived and the landlord had my contact info and the other tenants could supply my mail address and the window cleaners had my card.

Moreover, the cleaners had been called in by police on Tuesday afternoon. (See part 3)
As I received no mail nor phone-call, maybe the victim and spare-key had been right.
The case was solved.

Saturday evening, around 18:00, I was preparing dinner when a bell rang. It rang again.
Then the victim’s bell rang. She did not budge. I went downstairs.
Some guy in a weird kind of slap-dash grab-together second-hand combat-and-army outfit stood at the front door. Goths and punks looked better.

We get our regular share of sales persons, wrong address, and other problems at the front door.
Turned out this was police.
Not suspecting anything, I asked him to come in and up and into my room.
I expected this to be the witness interview.

Once inside, things turned nasty.
He repeated several times, he had no contact info of me.
Surprised, I told him the landlord has it, the window cleaners have it, lots of people have it.

He wanted my ID card.
I handed it to him.
His pen was not working.
I offered one, but he had another pen.
He copied down info, before handing it back.
I asked him to sit down in a chair, next to the windows.

He kept on and on about me not being registered there and people having good reasons for not being registered at an address.
Owning two other places and still undecided about where to settle – though having decided it would not be this house – I hadn’t registered there.
So I kept repeating his phrase: I had good reasons.
After all: was he there about my property, or a stolen laptop?

Told him I had heard the window cleaners had been called in Tuesday afternoon at 15:00. (See part 3)
No, they had not. They hadn’t been called in and he was the one in charge of the case, so he should know.

I was surprised: someone must be lying to me.
So I told him the victim had told me this, when I spoke to her Tuesday morning.

Things were going to get worse.
Once seated, his accusations started to come. It turned really nasty.

To put it in a nutshell: if he took my statement there and then, he could not use it to accuse, charge, and get me convicted.

So I was not being treated as an innocent witness of what happened Monday morning. (See part 1 and part 2)
I was being suspected of – just short of being accused of, charged with, convicted of – this theft.

So he needed to interview me at the police station.
Not the nearest one, but somewhere else in town.

I got really upset: I had asked this none-suit in trustingly, innocently, hospitably!
He was now actually abusing this trust and hospitality – to accuse an innocent witness of having stolen the laptop! I had not even planned to be in the house that morning!

In shock, I started to hyperventilate and ordered him to leave immediately – asking for his contact information.
I told him I was going to contact a lawyer and would not speak to any policeman again without a lawyer.

He told me I had the right to remain silent.
He refused to hand his card.
He mentioned a name, but I was so stressed out, I couldn’t write it down correctly.
I asked him to hand his card again.
He kept refusing.
I need reading-glasses to read small print – but was too distressed to look for them.
I could not read the card he kept in his hands.
With difficulty, I somehow managed to finally write down the name from the card with him spelling and mentioning a number.
The name on his card was not the name he had pronounced.

While he left, I told him again, I would not show up without a lawyer.
He told me I would receive a letter.
I said I would show up at a date and time that suited my lawyer.

Once he had left my room, I broke down and was hyperventilating.
After about an hour, I had calmed down enough to start typing badly spelled, ungrammatical, incoherent text messages to friends, asking for lawyers’ names.

It was Saturday evening. I was on my own. Everything had shut down for the weekend.
Even if I got a lawyer’s office name, it would not open till Monday and with their diaries, they would not be able to see me straight away.
How nicely it had been planned.

All the time, my large windows had been open; as had the windows above mine. My upstairs’ neighbour – the victim – and her spare-key friend had not missed a single word.

At the back of my mind, something still jarred.


Laptop thefts 4: Tuesday evening

Tuesday evening, I got home late. While preparing dinner, I’d left the kitchen door open. The spare-key tenant walked down the staircase with a load of washing. She broke off her descend to talk to me about the theft. (See part 1 and part 2)

She was no longer sure about her version of events.
She wanted to talk things over.
Told her, I was no longer sure about the open or closed door to the room.
She said I must have arrived on the higher floor, the moment she was in the room to close the windows.
So, her version now tallied with my Monday version of events.

I said I was no longer sure the door had been open, or closed, or whatever.
We went over the arrival of the elder window cleaner at my door and subsequent events.
We agreed the elder window cleaner couldn’t have hidden a laptop under his blouse or in his trousers.

She still claimed he must have seen where the spare key was hidden.
Told her, he had never denied this.
I had mentioned to the victim that morning, she should check sites like EBay or Marketplace. Stolen goods are often sold on such sites.
Spare-key’s IT boyfriend had told both women, tracking software needed to be downloaded and activated.

I no longer knew whom to believe. At first, I had believed spare-key and victim were up to something and the window cleaners were innocent, like me.

She mentioned the elderly man might have hidden in one of the cupboards on the various landings.
I found this rather stupid, weird, suggestive.

Told her, I passed him going downstairs while I went up. I had left my downstairs room open, while hurrying upstairs. He knew I was coming downstairs, so why risk hiding in any of the places on that floor?

I presume he went to the ground floor to help his colleague. But all I actually knew was, that I had not stolen the laptop, nor the camera. I knew I was innocent – but without alibi.

We were about 5 minutes into our conversation, when one of the other tenants decided to join us. It always takes about 3 to 5 minutes for her to materialise and check what is going on. Especially, when two or more tenants are having a chat on a landing.

At first she was ignored.
Then she got involved into the conversation.
I was surprised: she did not know what had happened Monday.
Neither she nor her upstairs tenant had been informed about the window cleaners having been called to clean windows, nor about the teft, nor about police having been called, nor about the search for fingerprints – nothing.

Nosy-parker mention, that when she got back from work Tuesday afternoon, a guy was working on the outside, street façade of the house.
Nobody had been informed about that.
Was this the same guy who had been working somewhere at the back, Monday morning?
I forgot to ask.

Regardless, she and her upstairs neighbour had been out of the house, so were not involved in the circus.
But should they not have been warned?

Nosy-parker mentioned her upstairs neighbour regularly left doors unlocked. So did the most of us, while in the house.
Like the rest of us, those two also had pcs, laptops, smartphones, televisions, personal treasures.
If I’d been the victim, I would have written a warning for everybody on the whiteboard.

I mentioned police had not contacted me yet. It was Tuesday evening and it worried me.
Spare-key said not to worry. Police knew where I lived and would know where to find me.
I told her about my blunder that morning: how I’d completely forgotten the victim was unable to give police my mail address as her laptop was gone.
Spare-key said not to worry. Insurance would certainly cough up money to enable her friend to buy another new laptop.

I found that fairly cold-hearted. Victims of theft are usually upset, devastated, shattered.
If the stolen laptop had been my friend’s and I would have been the one having used a spare key during the time it had disappeared, I’d be upset and mortified.  I would have held myself responsible.
But everybody reacts differently, I know.

We chatted some more, before she continued her journey down the stairs, to the washing machine.
But by then, she had kind of admitted she had been hiding in the shower that morning. (See part 3)

I finished preparing my dinner.
I did not feel like eating it.
Poking at some lettuce, I had the uncomfortable feeling that somehow my experience and interpretation of what had happened Monday morning, had been used to make another version fit.
I felt slightly sick.

Something still jarred.
I was blissfully unaware things would get worse – for me.

Laptop thefts 3: Tuesday morning

Tuesday morning, I decided to ask if the laptop had been found. (See part 1) So I went upstairs. On the landing, I passed the door of my small room, crossed into the small alcove with its three doors. The door on the left is my upstairs neighbour’s living room door. I knocked.

She shouted to wait a moment.
Through the closed door, I heard she was on the phone and repeating “three o’clock this afternoon”.
As I think it impolite to listen in on conversations, I walked across the landing to hang against the banister and wait for her to finish her conversation.
Someone was using the shared shower on this floor.

A few moments later, the door opened.
I crossed into the alcove to talk to my neighbour – remaining outside her room.
I asked if she’d found her laptop.
No, it was still missing and what’s worse, her photo camera which had been on the dining room table was also missing.

When she and her friend had gone upstairs, they had contacted police straight away.
She’d been on the phone talking to the police when I knocked: the window cleaners were going to be hauled in that very afternoon at 15:00.

We talked some more.
She accuses and suspects the whole world now.

Even the builders and painters who had been working on the house.
Their scaffolding had disappeared weeks ago, the job had finished over a fortnight ago.
Butshe claimed they might have seen the laptop and camera in her room, either on the dining room or elsewhere.
I wondered: had they come back Monday morning, when the front door had been open?

Even the builders who are gutting the house next door and now have scaffolding up to repair cracks, replace rotten wood, mend walls.
They are only about 4 to over 10 meters away from her window, which is at least 8 meters above ground. Oh yeah: its window panes open out.

Her spare-key-friend had told her, the window cleaners might have had ladders.

How these people could have reached her laptop through closed windows remains a mystery to me. Especially, as I was sitting one floor lower, next to my windows.

Okay, I was concentrating on my sewing – but I must admit, I never noticed the window cleaners using a ladder.
I never noticed next door’s scaffolding – at least three floors high – moving straight through the wooden latticed wall, separating both gardens.
I never noticed any of next door builders climb up on the shed and then down into the garden, grab a ladder, put it up so I would have seen it, open her windows …

She told me the tracking software the window cleaner had been talking about, was useless.
It had to have been installed and activated, spare-key’s IT boyfriend had said.

I did notice a few holes, twists, changes in the series of events as I had experienced them a day earlier.
But she had managed to make me doubt the window cleaners’ innocence.

As I told her, if any one went up or down, while I was in my room and sitting about 10 meters away from the staircase, I would not have noticed it.
And a camera might have been hidden in a bucket. (Though not a laptop, I presume.)

By now, the person who had been showering when I knocked on my neighbour’s door had long finished.
I heard something like a plastic beaker being accidentally thrown over. Nobody left the shower.
I guessed it was too useful a spot to eavesdrop on conversations taking place on that landing.

I was told police might want a word with me, as I was a witness.
Fine, I said, I’ll wait for them to contact me.
My number had changed over a year ago, but the landlord had it and he and all tenants know my mail address. Even the window cleaners had my contact info.
Ahhhh – stupid!

She said my mail address was on her stolen laptop …
Upset, I said goodbye and walked out of the alcove to the stairs.
While walking down the first few steps, it hit me.

She claimed the window cleaners might have spotted the laptop and camera lying on the dining room table, while walking up or down the stairs.
But no way you could look into her room right up to the dining-room table, to see a laptop and/or camera – even if the door was wide open – while you were on the stairs.

Even going into or out of my small room, which is right next to the alcove, you never have a free view into her room.
The door to her room is across the landing, into the alcove and then on the left.
The door opens into the room, blocking a clear view of everything and especially the dining room area.

You need to stand right in front of the door and it needs to be flung wide open, or you need to stand inside the room, for you actually to be able to see the dining room table against the furthest wall – and anything on it.

As far as I know, that door had never been flung wide open that day, till she had come back and noticed a missing laptop.

Something else jarred too.