Gassed and robbed: an­other NI fam­ily tells of France mo­torhome bur­glary

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY BRETT CAMP­BELL

A COU­PLE who were gassed in their mo­torhome have de­scribed how thieves stood over their naked 11-year-old daugh­ter and stole thou­sands of pounds worth of jewellery.

Dar­ren Clarke (42) and 37-year-old wife Char­lene, from New­town­abbey, were re­turn­ing from a hol­i­day in Spain with their dis­abled daugh­ter Dakota when they stopped near the French vil­lage of Gou­vets on their long drive home.

“I re­mem­ber hear­ing a noise when I woke up and look­ing out the win­dow to my left, but I don’t re­mem­ber a thing af­ter that,” Char­lene told the Belfast Tele­graph.

“It was only later that I re­alised it was the door clos­ing be­hind who­ever came in.

“It’s ter­ri­fy­ing to think what might have hap­pened if I had looked right — I would have seen them.”

The mother and fa­ther, who were trav­el­ling with­out their son, Jake (17), de­cided to speak out fol­low­ing the story of an­other cou­ple who were drugged in France, which fea­tured in this news­pa­per yes­ter­day.

They felt safe in the ‘hiv­ing’,

rest-stop which had restau­rants and a large ser­vice sta­tion, but the busy at­mos­phere didn’t stop thieves tar­get­ing them in the early hours of Au­gust 22.

“We thought it was odd that we both over­slept that morn­ing,

but we didn’t no­tice any­thing sus­pi­cious un­til pay­ing for gro­ceries later that day — over €300 was miss­ing from Dar­ren’s wal­let,” Char­lene ex­plained.

An ar­gu­ment fol­lowed about the money, but Dar­ren was adamant

that it hadn’t been spent. They then re­turned to their mo­torhome, where Char­lene dis­cov­ered a ring that she had hid­den away was sit­ting on a shelf un­der the dash­board.

“Dar­ren kept driv­ing and I got up to check a bag that I had buried in a locker above my daugh­ter’s bed and I couldn’t be­lieve it — five di­a­mond rings, a watch and €1,300 were gone,” Char­lene ex­plained.

“It took a while for the shock and re­al­i­sa­tion of what hap­pened to kick in, but when it did it was pet­ri­fy­ing.”

The stolen items, which in­cluded Char­lene’s en­gage­ment ring, were worth £17,000.

The fear­ful cou­ple went straight to a po­lice sta­tion, where an of­fi­cer pointed out tape marks around the air vent on their van.

“He said we’d been gassed, which was un­be­liev­able but made sense,” Dar­ren said.

“I kept say­ing, ‘No, we were in the van and it was a busy park’, but he said it hap­pens a lot and it’s done by very so­phis­ti­cated gangs who are also in­volved in gun-run­ning and peo­ple traf­fick­ing. That re­ally scared me.

“I don’t know how many in­trud­ers were in our mo­torhome, but they would have had to stand on my daugh­ter’s bed and re­ally hoke for that bag.

“She sleeps naked be­cause she over-heats and of­ten kicks the du­vet off.”

Char­lene added: “It’s ter­ri­fy­ing to think what could have hap­pened to her. She’s the most pre­cious thing to us.”

The cou­ple in­sisted they would not be de­terred from trav­el­ling again, but they will be adding se­cu­rity fea­tures to their mo­torhome, in­clud­ing a gas alarm.

KEVIN SCOTT

Dar­ren Clarke at home with his wife Char­lene and daugh­ter Dakota. Right, the fam­ily’s mo­torhome

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