“We’ve been robbed” came the shout from downstairs.
We were watching a DVD upstairs in the main living area of our villa. My wife had gone downstairs to check the washing at the same time as my daughter’s boyfriend had gone down to find a lead. She had gone into our son’s bedroom which opens up to a patio area at ground level. She was surprised to find the curtain was swept back and the French door half open.
We switched off the TV and gathered at the scene of the crime. My daughter’s suitcase had been brought into my son’s room along with her boyfriend’s camera bag. All of his very expensive photographic equipment was missing, along with his wallet, my son’s wallet and my daughter’s phone. Other quite attractive items had been left, including (most fortunately) a passport on a bedside table. All the other passports were safely secured in a safe elsewhere in the villa.
We had been out for dinner earlier that evening. We were just glad nothing else had been stolen. Had the thieves ventured upstairs they could have helped themselves to several laptops, phones and a Kindle.
The French windows into my son’s room had been forced open. We had left open the iron security grills on the outside. The gate into the garden was swinging. We did a quick check to make sure they were not still in the house, or that they had discarded the goods on the way out of the complex. We had already assumed it was more than one person – but maybe it was a single opportunist. We remembered that the gate into the holiday complex was unlocked when we went out to eat and when we returned. We had not set the burglar alarm as advised by the owners, but the house was locked up.
Then my son realised that he had been into his room after we returned from our meal to fetch his phone, and noticed nothing. We remembered that just after 11pm we had heard some doors banging, and assumed they were in one of the adjacent villas. Then it dawned on us – we had been robbed whilst we were still in the house, no more than 30 minutes earlier.
I called TJ the site manager and he called the local police. About an hour later two scruffy men, along with Omar, the site maintenance guy, turned up at our door. None of them spoke English beyond a few broken words, and their English was far better than our Turkish. We showed them the scene of crime. The younger policeman and I gesticulated and translated our way through the basics of the incident. I resorted to pointing at words in the phrasebook – “wallet”, ”credit cards”, “complaint”. I couldn’t find “emotionally traumatised” or the Turkish phrase for “are youreally genuine policemen?”.
His older accomplice over-examined the door with his little torch, as if to look like a real detective. They were at pains to insist we didn’t touch or move anything. We noticed that the younger man had a gun tucked in the back of his pants, inside his boxers. We tried not to imagine what would happen if he sat down. He used a kiddies pencil and notebook to take some rudimentary details. Some things we told him he wrote down, others he ignored. All he was interested in was the itinerary of stolen items – not the circumstances of the entry or even our names. The two who had lost their wallets cancelled their credit cards. It was 2am before we were in bed.
Eight hours later, my daughter’s boyfriend and I were at Bodrum police station, ready to report our crime and obtain our crime report – for insurance purposes. It is a large building guarded by a striped barrier at the front. We had abandoned my van at the side of the main road.
There is no traditional duty desk, just a hatch in the wall. Inside five men lounge in very plain, scruffy clothes. Once we have attracted their attention we try to explain our plight – but they all look rather dazed and less than interested. “Come back in half an hour” they finally articulate. We step outside. We have no money – one of us no longer has a wallet of course. So we wander round the streets of Bodrum in the sunshine to kill time.
When we return, we look back through the hatch. The five guardians of the law are sat around a wooden table eating breakfast. This is why they have asked us to come back later. One can only assume the criminals of Bodrum also partake in a hefty meal for half an hour before they start their day of crime.
A further wait. Men dressed as policemen walk in and out – looking like schoolboys doing their absolute best to meet the letter of the uniform code, whilst protesting the spirit. I go to the toilet – unsure whether I am allowed to go through that door or not, but no longer caring. Inside the bins are studded with pizza boxes and drink cartons. These policemen cannot go to work on an empty stomach.
Eventually after our man has nipped out for a loaf of bread, he beckons us into a small room. It is bare and scruffy with a rather superfluous computer monitor on the desk. He lights a cigarette and proceeds to leaf ever so slowly through a pile of crime reports. Unsurprisingly, none of them refers to our incident. The chance of the paperwork getting to the station before us was always infinitesimal. We try to tell him the police came at 1am – he is convinced we are saying they came for an hour. His English is good enough to tell us that his English is not good enough to fill in a crime report. He could fill out a form for a fight but not for a robbery. As he says “fight” he shadow boxes playfully. A picture paints a single word.
So we need a translator, he tells us. He takes us back into the room where the policemen had breakfast. There must be about 10 people in there now, all of them animated. Clearly the day of law-keeping us well under way. He has a translator on a phone. It is a relief to speak to someone who can speak English. He can be with us in 10 minutes and it will cost is 80 euros. Clearly crime does pay. I cynically wonder what percentage goes to the policeman’s pizza fund. I tell him we may get back to him tomorrow. We need to contact the insurance company first. And besides we have no money. Always a good place from which to negotiate.
And so we returned home. Later that morning TJ came along. He would have come last night but he was drunk and didn’t want to get in trouble with, well, the police. He rings the owner of our property – who I had already texted – and tries to persuade him to add some better security to that particular door. More revenue from crime. Either way the door will need fixing. TJ explained that the property next door had been broken into 3 times. Had we known this beforehand we would have been extra vigilant. We make a point of telling our neighbours.
Last night, my son slept in a different room. Tomorrow we hope the door will be fixed and he can return downstairs. TJ will drive us back to the police station in the morning and help us fill in the report, without the need for a translator. There is a risk that the police will not give us a crime report if the value of the stolen goods is over a certain amount. It will need to go into some opaque Turkish legal process. Apparently previous tourists have exaggerated their claims to include, for example, a selection of jewellery that one would never take on holiday. Hopefully they won’t query our claim and in the end no damage will have been done.
We doubt the police will find anyone. There are fingerprints, CCTCV cameras, possible witnesses, goods with serial numbers to be traced. But one doubts they will bother or be sufficiently organised to pull together such an investigation. At least not without another decent breakfast..