I was kid­napped by my lodger

The Guardian - Weekend - - Front Contents -

Nick was a good worker. I gave him a job at my lit­tle gar­den cen­tre be­cause I knew his dad a bit. He had a good ref­er­ence from the coun­cil, too. He han­dled the stock, which is hard for me be­cause I’ve got Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

One night, Nick ap­peared at my door, soak­ing wet from the rain, and asked for a room. He’d left the nurs­ery by then and was sleep­ing in his dad’s shed, be­cause he didn’t get on with his step­mother. I live alone and didn’t like see­ing him like that, so I let him in; we agreed it would just be for two nights. But he came back a week later, say­ing, “I can’t find any­where else.” It’s hard to let some­one you know go on sleep­ing in a shed. “We’ll try a cou­ple of weeks,” I said.

Nick stayed al­most six months. Af­ter a while, money and credit cards started go­ing miss­ing, but it was eas­ier to think I had lost them. Then his room started to fill up with new train­ers, and one day I came home to find him watch­ing porn on my com­puter. I told him he had to go and he punched me in the face. It’s hard for me to get up when I fall down, so I was stuck on the floor, watch­ing him flip over the couches and throw my records around. He said he was claim­ing squat­ters’ rights. I don’t think I looked him in the eye af­ter that. He stayed for an­other week, un­til a friend helped me kick him out.

Months later, Nick knocked on my door again. He said he wanted to apol­o­gise and check how I was do­ing. It was late, but I opened the door. He hit me in the throat and I fell back, cough­ing. An­other bloke stepped over me into the house. I couldn’t speak. They dragged me up­stairs and hand­cuffed me to my bed. Nick ripped the tele­phone out of the wall and said, “In the morn­ing, we’re tak­ing you to the bank. You’re go­ing to get us £50,000.” They thought I was rich be­cause I own a gar­den cen­tre. All night I sat there lis­ten­ing to them down­stairs. I later found out they were drink­ing, tak­ing drugs and trash­ing the place. The po­lice told me to get rid of the car­pet. There were women’s voices, too. When I shouted down that I needed the toi­let, Jake threw me a bucket. They weren’t hu­man.

In the morn­ing, they came up to get me. They had guns. I don’t know what they said; all I could think about was whether they were go­ing to kill me. My heart was thump­ing, and be­fore I knew it, we were driv­ing into the town cen­tre. Nick was right be­hind me with his gun as we walked to Lloyds bank.

The bank was just open­ing. Nick pushed me to the cashier’s desk, while the other man waited out­side. I said I wanted to cash out £50,000, then I whis­pered un­der my breath, “He’s got a gun.” Nick was inches be­hind me. The cashier said, “I’ll have to go to the safe.” When she got back, she took us to a ta­ble in the cor­ner and ex­plained how they had to count the money. Nick was twitch­ing and pac­ing, com­plain­ing in foul lan­guage. There was a slow, hor­ri­ble half-hour. All I could think about was the gun.

Two plain­clothes po­lice of­fi­cers came in, act­ing like nor­mal cus­tomers – un­til they got close. Then they pounced. Nick swung at the cashier and screamed, “Give me the money!” He was des­per­ate, like an an­i­mal: spit­ting, bit­ing and kick­ing un­til they cuffed his arms and legs. They later caught his ac­com­plice in France.

Nick got four years in prison. He served two and now he’s back in­side again. I still run the nurs­ery, but it hasn’t ended for me. I don’t sleep. Nick stole my pass­port and my credit card, and sold my de­tails to other thieves. I’ve since been robbed and at­tacked at home and at work. I try not to think about it, but I still get panic at­tacks.

My health is get­ting worse. I have no fam­ily nearby to sup­port me; so­cial ser­vices used to send a carer, but the agency closed. I can fall over putting on my trousers and spend hours wait­ing for help. The am­bu­lance knows its way to my house by now.

I’m more cau­tious around peo­ple since be­ing at­tacked, but I tell my­self it was be­cause I’m friendly with the bank staff that they re­alised what was hap­pen­ing. The doc­tor says I should find a lodger, and I know he’s right. It just needs to be some­one I can trust.

Nick’s name has been changed

Do you have an ex­pe­ri­ence to share? Email ex­pe­ri­ence@the­guardian.com

He ripped the phone out of the wall and said, ‘In the morn­ing, we’re tak­ing you to the bank’

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