Harpenden couple’s trauma after sneak thief burglary

A DEVASTATED couple who were burgled in their own home say they are determined not to live in fear and have vowed to improve security in their apartment block.

Irene and Roger Bracey had several pieces of priceless jewellery stolen on the morning of Saturday, April 2, from their flat in Beeching Close, Harpenden, while Irene was in the bathroom and Roger had popped out to their car.

Mr Bracey had thought their front door had closed as he’d left the flat and on his way out he passed a man on the stairs whom police believe was the culprit.

Mrs Bracey, 64, had been in the bathroom readying herself before she joined her husband downstairs to go shopping and police are unable to determine whether the thief entered the flat and left while she was in the bathroom or whether he was locked in when she left to go downstairs just minutes later.

Mrs Bracey said: “It’s really frightening and while I know that I am safe and nobody was hurt, it could have been very different. It’s absolutely gutted me. The thief’s haul included my engagement and eternity rings and two rings that belonged to our mothers – one was almost 75 years old. These treasured possessions weren’t locked away because I wore them so often.”

It was 24 hours before the couple, married for 45 years, became aware that the jewellery had been stolen and they were unwilling to believe the worst initially. They searched the apartment looking for Mrs Bracey’s mother’s ring but the search only revealed that eight other rings were missing and she said the moment she realised what had happened would stay with her for the rest of her life.

“For two days I could not stop crying. It really hurt me and was a violation of my home and us. Thankfully, we are both in good health and at the lower end of the OAP ladder and we will get over this but another older person who’s less healthy, they could have died as a consequence of this petty thief’s actions. He should think on.”

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The police informed the couple that it was very likely the person responsible spent his time wandering the streets looking for opportunities to steal in order to feed a habit, a thought which only adds further insult to the Braceys because it means their valuable possessions have probably been sold on for very little indeed.

Mrs Bracey is now determined to improve the security of the apartment block and has spoken with the council about installing secure doors and securing the entrance hall.

At present it is quite usual to see strangers sheltering in the hallway from the rain and during bad weather a homeless man often sleeps in there. The man who passed Mr Bracey and is believed to have been the culprit, greeted the pensioner as he passed him and made as if he were going to continue up the stairs. The couple and the police are convinced that instead he made his way to their flat where he found their front door ajar.

Security has long been a concern for the residents of Beeching Close and Mrs Bracey says there have been three similar incidents over the last two years, one of which saw an elderly lady return to her flat after hanging out the washing only to disturb a burglar who then pushed her over.

The couple were keen to warn people to be alert, to only open the door with a security chain on and to always ask for identification from strangers. They stressed that at no time should anyone leave the entrance to their home unattended, even for a single minute, because “that’s all it takes for these unscrupulous people to do their wicked deed”.

Mrs Bracey added: “I just want to say an enormous thank you to my wonderful family, friends and neighbours for the many messages, phone calls, cards and beautiful flowers that have made our lounge look like a florist’s shop.

“Their concern, love and support has reminded us that there are still some beautiful people out there in our world.”

Anyone with any information regarding the burglary is asked to contact the police on the non-emergency number: 0845 3300 222.