Monday, September 24, 2007


England 4. Romania 0.

There were four of them. I reckon we missed the driver.

These boys were good at what they did. They had arrived on our shores some months before we met them from the beautiful and dangerous land called Romania. I wondered whether they had been to special classes at home, classess for ATM and cashpoint crime. They were particularly adept at this type of villainy. They had been smashing ATM's all over the country and countless numbers of the public had had their PIN's corrupted and their cards cloned or even stolen using the machinery they attached to the cashpoint fronts.

However, they underestimated several factors:

The nosiness of the residents of a middle English market town.
The diligence of the ASDA security bloke.
The diligence and nifty camera work of the Council-owned CCTV system.
The untrusting nature of middle-aged people.
The shit-hot response from the local coppers.
The MINT post arrest investigation and remand application.

So, in short, we have some disgruntled middle aged folk who all report the fact that they had £250 jots nicked from their accounts without their permission. Apparently, they all went to Naples, Italy on the same day. So the local cops go down the ASDA (where the ATM's are) and infect the security guard with their enthusiasm for justice. He is despatched to find some images. Next stop, the Council CCTV. They got the infection too and despatched themselves to find some images. They find some images of a gang of four baddies apparently all wanting to use the ATM machines at the same time and being really protective of their PIN numbers.

Or rather, sticking their clever machinery onto the front of the ATM machines to steal peoples cards, clone the cards and steal the PIN numbers. Are you with me so far?

Now two weeks later, the team make the mistake of coming back to middle England and seeing if they can get some more of the foolish Englishmans cash.

Mrs 'weekdayshoppingintownlady' immediately saw the men and thought "I knew those swarthy looking eastern-europeans were up to no good...I could tell by their uneasy manner...oh and the fact that they all went to the cashpoint about ten times each after anyone went there to get money out...I decided to call the law down to have a word with them..."

Cue phonecall from lady..."you may wish to send some Policemen down to the cashpoints at ASDA, there are some out-of-towners doing something naughty the way, send only the biggest lads at the police station because these men look, well...rough quite frankly"

Cue shout to the cops and CCTV and ASDA security where immediate ID is made from the operators who by an amazing stroke of luck, were the same ones who found the images from the events of a fortnight before. So we had the same team in town.

The cops were majestic. Great CCTV footage of them strolling purposefully up to the men, then a starburst from the baddies, then a foot chase and some great and necessary use of force on arrest.

Little did the team of bad guys know that we had images of them putting the devices up inside their clothing and then hiding them in trees and bushes when they ran off. All items were recovered, including the car, which by another amazing stroke of luck had passed through the automatic number plate reader on our town approach road 12 minutes before the offences two weeks ago and ten minutes before the ones on this day.The CCTV work on this occasion was some of the best I had seen.

"General...the D.I.'s on the phone, he says you've got to interview some Romanian baddies whove been caning the cashpoint machines"
"I Don't fucking think so. I am about to go off duty and have a red-hot evening with Mrs General. It's all planned and everything. The guv can kiss my skinny white ass"
"Have you seen your ass lately Gen, it's not what you think it is.."
"Tell the guv I've gone home..."
"No you haven't I can see you there you skiving little shit" (says the guv as he walks in the room with his mobile held up to his ear)
"Erm, guv, erm please can I go home, I had a night of red-hot action planned.."
"I've spoken to your missus, she reckons ten minutes you mean..ha..ha..ha"
"Very funny guv. Really, I am going home."
"No.I need you to stay on and help with this thing. I've got some others coming over from the other districts"

"ring ring...Alright Mrs Gen, somethings happened at work and I've got to stay on and help.."
"was that help or deal?"
"No just help. It's not on my district or my type of crime so I'll just be helping"
"Okay. Try not to be too late then.."
" Sweet. keep it warm for me baby.."
"Shut up and hurry up home 'yes boy'"

They smelled bad. I walked into the block area and the fetid odour caught my throat immediately. It smelled like old rotten spuds.

"Sarge, I am interviewing the Romanian baddies. Is it true that one day, someone brought some old potatoes and thrust them into your air-conditioner without telling you about a month and a half ago and that is the odour which is making me want to boff up all my dinner?"
"No gen, its' your prisoners feet and his B.O."
"Splendid. Do we still have the white suits and breathing apparatus in custody?"
"You still have your mask on from last time gen..."
"Very amusing sarge but seriously, can they not shower?"
"the showers are bosted."
"Is bosted a word sarge?"
"Yes.It represents what I will be doing to your balls if you don't hurry up and get rid of the smelly european cousins from my block, sharpish"
"message received and understood skipper...I'll have the first miscreant to my interrogation room please,custody assistant..."

The youngest of them all. The weak link. The one who would tell us all about the job when we put the pressure on. Then we go to the other interviews with an idea of what the score was. Interpreter is a wonderfully mannered fiftysomething, who was definately a looker when she was younger. She was emabarrassed by her countrymen for sure. Young boy looked vulnerable. He was fresh in the country and hadn't been heard to utter a single word in English at any time. His brief was there. A local paralegal woman who din't like me very much and the feeling was pretty much mutual. I knew that I was getting a no comment even before the tapes were switched on.

The tears rolling down the boys cheeks seemed real to me. I mentioned home and family and being bullied by the older one in the group and it was as though I had looked into his soul. I could see just from the CCTV that the oldest one was in charge of them and they feared him.

The second one was a bit older. Knew a bit more English and was cockier. Gave a no comment interview but I took the smirk off his face with the special warnings I gave him for the property we had seized from him. An inference can be drawn in court if the suspect fails or refuses to answer a question put to him in certain circumstances. This was one of them. He continued with a no comment. Shit legal advice I thought, you'll regret that in crown court.

The third was taken by my mate which left the older one. I took him out of his cell. I saw his black leather loafers outside his cell. He had on a black pair of trousers and a white shirt. He got up off his bed and pushed his long, greasy black hair back over his head. He had stone-cold dark brown eyes. The eyes of a murderer I thought. He grinned at me and held out a plastic cup. "Coffee?"
"Yes please mate, just one sugar in mine"
"No. You get me coffee"
"I'm a detective mate, not a trolley dolly. Get your own coffee you cheeky fucker"
"You are bad man"
"Yep. Thats what my ex-wife thinks. You look a bit like her actually"
"DC General, I do hope you aren't upsetting my client?"
"Not at all, I was remarking how fetching his loafers are. I want a pair like that to do my gardening in"

He talked and blamed all the others. Standard format for a ruthless organised criminal who would have the throats cut of the other three if they even dared mention his existence. He didn't reckon on the hours of images of people putting their PIN numbers into cahspoint machines which we found on memory sticks at his house and on him. He didn't like the special warnings one bit either. Because when he was asked about the incriminating stuff, he clammed up. "you are bad man. Special warnings. You are bad man"

"I'm going home where I will smile and drift into a peaceful sleep. You are the bad man my friend"

He held out his hand to shake mine. Now, I have always thought that the worst kind of man-insult you can do is refuse to shake a mans hand if he extends it. I contemplated it for a second, but I shook his hand. "bad man" said the killer as he gripped my hand just a little bit too long. "good luck in court mate. And wash them fucking feet will you, they stink."

The application for their remand in custody was like William "the general" Shakespeare had penned it, it was that good. Surprisingly for once, the local magistrates believed me and sent them down the steps where they remain and will do so for the next couple of years.

I got home at half ten the following morning. A full 26.5 hours after I had called my wife. Legendary.

By the way, next time you get money out of the cashpoint, take a second or two to look over your shoulder for sus looking Romanian types and also, try and pull off the bit where your card goes in to the slot. If this device thing comes off in your hand, run away really quickly taking the thingy with you and try not to get shot or knifed by some organised criminals. (if you do, try and get a photo of them on your phone during the assault to help me with my enquiries.) Either bring the article to the police or throw it into a nearby lake and go to bed with a huge grin on your face, patting yourself on the back for a job well done.

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