Car­bon­ear break-in vic­tims be­come vig­i­lantes

Po­lice as­sure res­i­dents in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ac­tive; sus­pects iden­ti­fied

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

Emo­tions ran high in Car­bon­ear last week as vic­tims of a string of break-ins ral­lied to­gether in an at­tempt to find an­swers — and jus­tice — for the wrongs they say were com­mit­ted against them while on va­ca­tion.

There were ac­cu­sa­tions of in­ac­tion against mem­bers of the RCMP, a con­fronta­tion that in­cluded “push­ing and shov­ing” be­tween vic­tims and sev­eral people with al­leged knowl­edge of the crimes, and a voice record­ing of an in­di­vid­ual with what ap­pears to be in-depth knowl­edge of how the break-ins were or­ches­trated.

“It’s not good enough,” a frus­trated Laura Butt told The Com­pass on Thurs­day, May 15, when com­ment­ing on her as­sess­ment of the po­lice re­sponse.

Butt, along with six other res­i­dents, had their homes bur­glar­ized over the past two months, though up to Fri­day, no ar­rests had been made.

An RCMP spokesman em­pha­sized last week that an ac­tive in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing, with pa­trol of­fi­cers and spe­cial­ists from the gen­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion sec­tion (GIS) tasked to look into what has been ac­knowl­edged as a spike in break-ins.

Like other vic­tims, Butt was va­ca­tion- ing at the time her home was bro­ken into, and the dwellings were un­oc­cu­pied.

In her case, the thieves made off with jew­elry and a pair of sa­mu­rai swords, as well as nu­mer­ous Mother’s Day gifts.

Since re­turn­ing from her trip, Butt’s qual­ity of life has been se­verely shaken and she has had trou­ble sleep­ing and eat­ing. She has spo­ken with other vic­tims, and they have ex­pressed sim­i­lar dis­tress.

One vic­tim, who wished to re­main anony­mous due to fear of ret­ri­bu­tion, has spent some $2,000 on se­cu­rity equip­ment.

This led to a build-up of frus­tra­tion amongst the home­own­ers last week, and it all came to a head Tues­day, May 13 when, as a group, they made their way to the po­lice sta­tion in Har­bour Grace.

Butt said the re­sponse she re­ceived from of fi­cers was not what she ex­pected.

“We were wait­ing for an of­fi­cer who was there that day, and he started tak­ing us in one- by- one,” she ex­plained.

Butt said people were sin­gled out among the group and asked what they were do­ing in the sta­tion.

“People are trau­ma­tized here,” she said. “It was just un­be­liev­able how he treated those people.”

De­tec­tive work

Not sat­is­fied with the re­sponse of the po­lice, the home­own­ers be­gan do­ing a lit­tle work of their own. This led to a con­ver­sa­tion with an uniden­ti­fied male. Butt recorded this con­ver­sa­tion, and said the male spelled out in de­tail who was in­volved, how they were mov­ing the stolen goods, and how they be­came aware the homes were va­cant.

The Com­pass lis­tened to the au­dio, and can con­firm its au­then­tic­ity, though it’s not been proven whether the in­for­ma­tion is cred­i­ble.

Later that evening, Butt and her hus­band, Stephen Kel­loway, sat in their ve­hi­cle watch­ing the home iden­ti­fied by the male “in­for­mant.”

Things quickly got in­ter­est­ing, said Butt.

“We weren’t parked when an (all­ter­rain ve­hi­cle) came over the hill, fled into this drive­way and parked next to a shed,” said Butt. “I said to my hus­band, ‘that’s him. That’s ex­actly who I was told about.’

“We could see them in the garage go­ing with bags and pack­ing up stuff.”

Also in­volved in the vig­i­lante ma­noeu­vre was an­other vic­tim of the break-ins, Adam Dove.

“We ac­tu­ally seen people run­ning with bags say­ing, ‘Oh we’re screwed, we’re screwed, we’re screwed,’” Dove told CBC News. “We chased them and couldn’t find them, ap­proached the young man and asked him ques­tions. He to­tally de­nied, and I mean there was a push and a shove, noth­ing big, and an ex­change of words. The RCMP showed up and ba­si­cally I was al­most charged with as­sault.”

Prior to this in­ci­dent, Butt of­ten heard about break-ins but never thought it would hap­pen to her. Af­ter leav­ing on va­ca­tion May 3, Butt re­ceived a phone call from her sis­ter two days later alert­ing her to the break-in. The rest of the trip was an anx­ious one as ev­ery pos­si­ble sce­nario ran through her head.

Upon ar­riv­ing home, Butt made sure to wash all of her pos­ses­sions, which took two days. Her sis­ter had taken pho­tos of the aftermath of the break. She was shocked by the im­ages. “It was like a movie,” said Butt. Dove has lived in Car­bon­ear for sev­eral years. He was in Cuba when his fam­ily was robbed, al­though he did not find out un­til re­turn­ing home.

He lost jew­elry, money, elec­tron­ics and a ring be­long­ing to his wife’s grand­mother.

“They were in my chil­dren’s bed­rooms, they took my chil­dren’s piggy banks that they were sav­ing up to go to Dis­ney World,” said Dove. “That stuff hurts. I mean, that’s not money; that stuff hurts.”

Dove said there was very lit­tle ev­i­dence of a break-in.

“The way we were broke into was very metic­u­lous,” he ex­plained. “You could see where a spike and crow­bar went into the door, but there was hardly any dam­age … you’d never say any­one was in there.”

This rob­bery has changed Dove’s per­cep­tion of the Con­cep­tion Bay North com­mu­nity.

“This is Car­bon­ear, this stuff doesn’t hap­pen … that’s crazy,” he said.

RCMP re­sponse

While some are less than sat­is­fied with the po­lice re­sponse, RCMP Sgt. Greg Hicks of­fered as­sur­ances last week that of­fi­cers were pur­su­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble lead, and that some sus­pects have been iden­ti­fied.

Be­cause of the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mat­ter, Hicks said he was hes­i­tant about say­ing too much, fear­ing it may jeop­ar­dize the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“I un­der­stand there is some frus­tra­tion by the per­ceived slow­ness of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said Hicks. “But we have to act on ev­i­dence; not pub­lic opin­ion.”

As for the con­fronta­tion on May 13, Hicks said po­lice re­ceived a com­plaint from a res­i­dent with al­le­ga­tions he was be­ing ha­rassed.

“He felt he had done noth­ing wrong,” said Hicks. “Of­fi­cers did me­di­ate that sit­u­a­tion, and no charges

were laid.”

Photo by Ni­cholas Mercer/The Com­pass

Car­bon­ear res­i­dent Laura Butt is fed up with the re­sponse of the RCMP to a string of break-ins in the com­mu­nity over the last two months.

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