Strangers rally to aid robbery victim

January 30 2014

FRIENDS, neighbours and complete strangers have rallied round to help a 92-year-old man after thieves ransacked his home, threatened him with a chisel and made off with his £2,000 savings.

bromley heath community spirit aids old gentleman

FRIENDS, neighbours and complete strangers have rallied round to help a 92-year-old man after thieves ransacked his home, threatened him with a chisel and made off with his £2,000 savings.

The gentleman’s plight came to their attention after resident Emily Beer overheard the man telling a counter assistant at Downend Post Office how he may have been followed home after withdrawing his pension because later that evening he had been targeted by robbers.

Emily, 33, who lives in Bromley Heath, couldn’t get his story out of her head so she took to social network site Facebook to tell her friends what had happened.

Within minutes, people responded to share their anger and disgust.

But, in the true spirit of Christmas, their dismay quickly turned into something positive as people asked, ‘How can we help him?’

By chance her message was read by Downend resident Ruth Dorrell who realised she knew the man’s identity as he was an old family friend.

Ruth, 37, contacted Emily to let her know and they discussed the best way everyone could help.

Emily, who lives with partner Richard and their three-year-old son, said: “I was waiting in the queue in the Post Office and overheard an elderly man saying that the last time he was here he could have been followed because later that night his home was broken into. He said one of the men threatened him with a chisel while the other searched the house until they found his money.

“I got on Facebook and ranted. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard.”

Emily’s message was forwarded to Heathboard, an e-notice board on Facebook for the Bromley Heath community, where it was then spotted by Ruth.

Emily said: “I had a message from someone who said ‘I think I know the person you are talking about’. 

“People kept messaging me asking if they could do something but now we knew who he was we were able to do something.

“Initially we thought about collecting money but then a few people suggested a hamper would be a better idea. It wasn’t about the hamper, or gifts, it was about showing him that there are some good people out there who care. It was about restoring his faith in people.”

Emily, along with sister Lucy Ware, 29 and their 63-year-old mum Jean, masterminded a collection of goodies and festive treats, using Facebook to let people know what was happening.

“Lots of friends and neighbours, as well as people I don’t even know, left items on my doorstep,” Emily said.

“We were given so many things, we actually ended up with two hampers.”

Among the items left were Christmas cake and pudding, chocolate, port, crisps, biscuits, tea and bubble bath as well as best wishes cards and children’s drawings to wish the gentleman a very happy Christmas.

Local businesses also played their part, with the manager of Downend Co-op topping up donated gift vouchers to £60.

Emily went with Ruth to present the hampers to the widower, whose identity Downend Voice has chosen not to reveal.

Emily said: “I told him that the hampers were to show him how so many people care about what happened to him.

“He told us we shouldn’t have done it but he was very grateful. At times he was tearful and he rang one of his friends to tell them what we had done.

“I had to do something – it was all I could think about. It’s not just about the fact that they took his savings but they’ve taken his confidence. The people who did it to him probably don’t realise the impact it has. It has much wider implications than just the money.”

Emily said she wanted to say a huge thank you.

“I’m the lucky one because through doing what I did, I have met so many nice people. There must have been at least 40 people who donated things. Although it was mostly people from Bromley Heath and Downend, there were others who came from across Bristol to donate items.

“I also collect for the Julian Trust Night Shelter in Bristol and all it takes is for me to put a comment on Facebook and I’ll come home to bags full of items which have been donated by my local friends and neighbours.

“If I won the lottery and could afford to buy a house anywhere in the world, I would not move. I feel privileged and fortunate to live in a community where people rally together when there’s someone in need. We are so lucky around here. There are so many people who do such wonderful things.”

Ruth told Downend Voice that security cameras and a panic alarm have been installed at the pensioner’s home following the incident.

“The police believe he was followed when he went to collect his pension,” she said.

“They took over £2,000 as well as his deceased wife’s jewellery. Luckily they didn’t hurt him but they kept him there while one of the men ransacked his house. It was very traumatic for him.”

Ruth, a mum of two, said the act of kindness has helped restore her family friend’s faith in humanity.

“He was almost in tears and was just so thankful and pleased.  *If anyone has any information which could help police enquiries into the burglary on October 14, they can contact 101 quoting reference 102621/13.

Alternatively call the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.