Trust the satnav!

Can Google Maps and other satnav software be trusted? Some swear by such software. Many swear at the software. Some unflappables allow some leeway.

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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 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.