[email protected] - Battered, bruised, but British!

October 2011

I’ve obviously read about people being attacked and robbed and I suppose, like most of us, I wondered what I would have done in the same circumstances, never believing that it would actually happen. Then there was a knock on the door. We’ve been beaten up and robbed and we’ve suffered in semi-silence with some close friends and a few bottles of something strong. But here I am, about to write about what happened. Maybe it will be cathartic, who knows.

This is the sort of story that should start with ‘It was a dark and stormy night …’, but it wasn’t it was mid-afternoon and sunny when the doorbell rang. Kate answered and a youngish man in a crash helmet asked if Gérard was there. Since we have a neighbour called Gérard, the man was pointed in the right direction and he apologized for the intrusion. In the late evening, the doorbell rang again and I opened it. This time a different man asked if Gérard was there and as I said no he hit me in the eye with something harder than his fist, then coshed me on the head, the arms and my back until I was on the lying on the floor where he kept a foot on my neck. While this was going on, two other men ran upstairs, grabbed Kate and asked for her money and jewellery, threatening at the same time to cut off her finger if she didn’t take off the ring she was wearing. As she slid the ring from her finger, the two men looked away and Kate heroically ran downstairs and pressed the alarm that we had installed after the house had been burgled in our absence three years ago. One of the brave men then grabbed her and beat her unconscious. The result was a broken nose and teeth and nauseating bruising.

By this time, one of the thieves had found the safe we have in the bedroom and I was dragged upstairs to open it. Because my eye was bleeding I couldn’t really see what I was doing, so as an encouragement something rigid was put at the back of my head and I was told that either I opened the safe or they’d kill me. I continued fumbling around trying to put the right digital code, but my mind wasn’t functioning normally and I remember thinking that my time was up and I was about to die.

For some strange reason, at that particular moment I wasn’t frightened. I seemed to be in a surreal state, everything was out of my control, my fate, destiny, call it what you like, was in the hands of three brutal thieves, parasites that live on the results of other people’s endeavours.

With the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think the thieves had a gun, otherwise they would have pointed it at us on entering the house, but I didn’t have play-back resources available at that moment. Then the safe door opened.

The next seventy-two hours remain somewhat blurred – mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t see properly. The first night we spent in the local hospital, then the next day we did the commissariat de police and the ophthalmologist. The day after that I had my eye operated on in the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco and Kate had her nose fixed.

Kate had all her jewellery stolen, items mostly irreplaceable, some euros and pounds and a couple of watches. I had eleven watches stolen plus some jewellery and some Swiss francs. Why did I have eleven watches here in Menton the police asked? I explained that two were presents for my daughters, and nine were watches that I wore regularly because I write about the watch industry and I mistakenly thought that with a 300 kilo immovable safe in Menton they were safer there than in my apartment in Geneva.

If I can find any receipts the insurance company should help me purchase replacements. But the others?

How do I replace a Rolex GMT that I purchased for my father around 1970, or my TAG Heuer Special Edition Monaco, or even the Maurice Lacroix Calendar watch in 18 carat yellow gold that I scrimped and saved for way back before I worked in the watch industry?

Being British, people expect you to be phlegmatic, maintain a stiff upper lip in difficult circumstances, be philosophical – okay then, we consider ourselves lucky to be alive. But I will add that although I’m not religious, I sincerely hope that the perpetrators of this cowardly attack get divine retribution. Additionally, I asked one of the police inspectors if they caught the men concerned could they leave me in a room, with them handcuffed and me with a baseball bat, for a mere five minutes. He half-smiled and said they didn’t do that in France. Right, pity!

The one positive element that came out of all this was that the police drove me back home one day after I’d been going through their rogues gallery and because there was a traffic jam they put the siren on. They stopped only for me to buy my newspaper and then dropped me at the front door. That was a first!

An American comedian called Jack Benny, who used to tell funny stories about being very miserly with his money, said, “I was held up at gunpoint the other day and the man said ‘Your money or your life!’ I didn’t answer straight away so he repeated, ‘Your money or your life!’ So I said don’t rush me, I’m thinking about it.” Well, you’ve got to laugh haven’t you, but I can assure you, it really doesn’t work that way when the chips are down.

Source: Europa Star October - November 2011 Magazine Issue