Column – Originally printed in the Waterford News & Star December 2016
This week’s column is based on real events that happened right here in Waterford over the Christmas time. It’s a composite of a number of separate incidents, used to create one hugely frustrating insight into the life of a parasite.
“John” walked the neighbourhood for second time that week. He brought the dog this time to dispel any possible suspicion. As he turned in a cul de sac he took a quick glance at the hedge that he would watch the neighbourhood from the next night. He was no criminal genius, after all, he had already spent 10 years of his life as a drug addict. The six months or so that he had been clean had been spent organising crimes as opposed to just targeting random people on the street. He didn’t mind doing that too though, whenever the opportunity presented itself. His previous criminal record currently stood at 18 – mostly theft offences with a couple of public order charges in there for good measure. Today was December 20, a busy few days ahead for everyone, but especially him.
John usually worked with an accomplice but tonight, as he sat in the hedge dressed all in black, he was glad that he was working alone. He didn’t have any particular houses in mind, the plan was to wait until a family left and then he would make his move. At 7pm a young family with one child left the house and locked the front door. They packed their little one into the back seat and then drove off. John took a quick look around to see that there was nobody else on the street and made his way toward the house.
There was a dog barking from the side of the house – always an inconvenience, mainly because of the barking. John knew though, dogs that were kept outside in the back garden were always appreciative of being left out. He opened the gate and let the dog run free around the neighbourhood, meaning he could investigate the house, free from all that annoying yelping. Thank God they didn’t have a padlock on the back gate, he thought to himself.
Using a chisel and a hammer, John attempted to remove the lock off the side door. If that didn’t work he knew he had a patio door, which he could just smash. Luckily for him, the lock came off relatively easy and he was able to open the door with a couple of hard shoves. No beeps upon entry, no alarm system, his second piece of luck.
John made his way to the sitting room where he saw 10-12 presents wrapped under the tree – jackpot number one! He took a black sack from under the kitchen sink and opened all the presents one by one. An expensive looking jacket, a toiletries set, a kid’s toy…they were all worth taking because he could either sell them on or keep them for himself.
He had another quick look around before moving upstairs. First, into the master bedroom, where he pulled out all of the drawers in the hope of finding some jewellery. From the man’s side of the wardrobe he just grabbed a handful of suits and threw them into the sack. On the dresser he cupped his arm and just shoved it all into the bag. Not for a second did he think about what he was doing. “I’m invading someone’s privacy in the worst possible way…but it’s okay, because I’m stuck for money right now and these people have loads.”
Then, John made his way into the bedroom of a four year old. Knowing that he was walking into a child’s bedroom and knowing that he had already stolen some of her presents from downstairs, this was no bother to him. At first it didn’t look like she had anything worth taking, until he spotted a money box on her windowsill. Without a second thought, he opened it and emptied the contents into the bag. “A lot for a child,” he thought to himself. Before leaving the house he pulled out a few more drawers and ran his grubby fingers through more of this family’s possessions. As he left the estate, he mimed a kick in the direction of the dog that he had just let out. The family would return home later that night to a scene of devastation. Christmas ruined, all because one person thought he had the right to invade someone’s home and take the possessions that they worked hard for. John doesn’t have a job and that’s the way he likes it. These, hardworking people are paying John’s wages and if he ever gets caught, they’ll be paying for his legal representative as well.
If John is caught – and that’s a mighty big IF – he’ll go to District Court and because he’s not working, he’ll be granted free legal aid. His solicitor will then tell the judge that his client has a very tough upbringing and there was a history of alcoholism and abuse in the family. “He’s battling addiction at the moment judge but he has been clean of heroin for six months now. He carried out these crimes whilst under the influence of drink and some pain medication for a prolonged leg injury. He has told me that he deeply regrets what he has done and knows that he must be punished.”
The judge, taking note of the 18 previous convictions, sentences him to two years but suspends them pending a report from the parole board. He’s released on a very small cash bond. John leaves the court with his girlfriend, herself a girl of ten previous convictions, some for robbery, some for assault, both laughing at the fact that he has ruined another Christmas and gone total unpunished.
Welcome to Ireland in 2016.