Sunday, January 6, 2013

Robbed on New Year's Eve

We returned to P.E. last night  to celebrate New Year's Eve with neighbours Peter and Cheryl Clark.   I thought they were going to host a big neighbourhood braai (barbaque) but the only other person who attended was Suzanne, Peter's sister-in-law, who is divorced from Peter's brother.  He left her to marry an American so he could emigrate to the U.S.   Suzanne has two jobs and is trying to hold things together.  She has two adult children who are very supportive of her.  We enjoyed the evening and were home by 11:00 p.m. Peter was raised on a dairy farm near Grahamstown so we have a lot in common.  He is president of the "Body Corporate of Stethan Place." I gave Cheryl a set of our keys so she opened the windows and turned on the geyser (water heater).   So we have an airy flat and hot water to return to when we are in Port Elizabeth.
 Too bad I chose to make a carrot cake for the New Year's Eve party.  Otherwise I would not have been robbed!  Monday Edward, our land lord, came by to give us the paperwork on a refrigerator he bought for the Grahamstown flat.  The food would freeze while drinks stored the door never got very cold.  As the fridge was still under warranty, I told Edward I would pay the difference if he switched it out for a new larger one that worked properly.  So we went to the appliance store and picked out another one.  The difference was 1500 Rand, or about $290.  Then Tom went to the ATM to get cash.  However there was a very long line.  So we just pooled the cash we had, about 1520 Rand and some change, and went back to the store. 

  Tom seldom uses his credit cards here in South Africa as there is lots of corruption.  He fears he might get scammed. Consequently we both carry around 1,000 Rand in cash.  After paying for the fridge, we returned to our flat and defrosted the old one.  I made a carrot cake  but did not have any  cream cheese for icing.  We needed to buy an iron and ironing board for our young elders so we went back into town.

  While Tom went to get some money from the ATM machine, I went to Checkers to buy a package of cream cheese.  The streets were crowded.  People were buying school clothes and exchanging Christmas gifts.  There were wall to wall people in that grocery story. It took a long time to check out even though I only had one item.

  When I came out of the store it was raining so I stopped to open my umbrella. I had the straps of my purse with magnetic snap over one arm.   It had a fat paperback and the cream cheese in the bottom so my wallet rested on top.  It was very accessible.   I was looking around for the car when  a young woman yelled, "that man stole your purse!"  My first thought was, "how could that be?  My  purse is on my arm."  Then realised she meant my wallet.  I turned around and saw a young black man in a cobalt blue jacket running madly down the street. I realised that he must have reached in my purse and snatched my wallet.  

  I took of running after him down the crowded wet street.   I planned to hit him over the head with the umbrella and get my wallet back. But the street was very crowded and he could run much faster than I could.  As  I lost  ground I started yelling,  "Stop that man.  He's a thief!  He stole my wallet!"  But people just stared at me.  As he rounded the corner opposite the cathedral I lost thim.  When I turned the corner  he had disappeared.  

I went back to the car and was met by Constable Makafe (a black female police officer) and and her partner, Constable Fasafe, another black.    Someone in a building opposite the car had witnessed the robbery and called the police.  I did not see the man's fact but believed I could recognised him from the clothes he wore.  He was a typical slimline black youth around 18.  He wore a blue jacket, dark jeans and a black baseball cap and boy could he run!  These two constables drove me all around Grahamstown.  Even escorted me into the local pool hall. But we could not find him. They wanted to take me to the station to file a complaint but I told them I needed to get back to the car where I was to meet my husband.
  Elder Stokoe arrived with an iron and ironing board about the time they dropped me off at the car.  Tom drove around  looking for the police station when I saw a young black wearing the clothes that answered the description of the man who took my wallet.  I wanted to  stop but then what would l I say, "Did you steal my wallet?" 
 Tom made a "U" turn and we went back.  By the time we got there he had disappeared again.  There were 20 people ahead of me at the police station, all filing complaints.  As we had to get back to our flat to take delivery on our refrigerator, we decided to return later. Constable Makafe said that the youth would likely take out the money and through the wallet away so she took  my address at #19 Kettlewell and promised to return the wallet if someone turned it in.  Luckily it contained less than $4.00 U.S.  But replacing the contents will be a big hassle.   The wallet contained three Granite District Visa cards, my Utah drivers licence, my temple recommend and an American Express card.  I  had to report that the all these cards had been stolen.  

Tom drew out enough cash to last 3 weeks and then called the Credit Union and they blocked new charges.  Dean gave me the phone number for the Utah Driver's Licence Devision.  I called them and as I had just renewed my drivers license and they have my photo on file they can reissue it.  However it will take about 90 days.   Our utility bills and some other expenses are regularly deducted from my account.  Which will cause havoc with our bills but Dean is taking care of that.

  I never expected to be robbed and probably should have taken more precautions.  Tom is always very careful to hide the GPS and lock everything up when we leave the flat.  We close and lock our windows and doors.   I think the man saw me take my wallet out to pay for the cream cheese at Checkers.  He likely  targeted me and followed me to the street.  Then reached into my purse while I was when I was opening my umbrella. 

   It's pleases me that he got less than $4.00 U.S and that he was seen by many.  Grahamstown is a small town.  Everyone saw me chase him down the street. Someone should be able to identify him.  Half an hour after the robbery Tom stopped to ask directions to the police station.  The taxi driver he asked looked at me and said, "You are the woman who got robbed!"  

   Elder Stokoe is busy with month end reports and getting receipts sent to Cape Town for reimbursement.  We have the telephone bill and electric to pay here tomorrow and expect return to Grahamstown Thursday.   We brought new filters for all water purification systems from East London which need to be distributed to everyone.  They must be installed in the elders flats when we do inspections.  

Our Sacrament meeting talks on Sunday went well.  However Tom's and Alan's talks were too long which cut into the third hour so we did not have much time to encourage people to do their home and visiting teaching.  We are enjoying Grahamstown Branch and with our PEF assignment, we find ourselves quite busy. 

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