“My cash card’s been stolen, do you know anything about it?” my father asked.
I denied it of course. The reality of it was that I knew his PIN number, but I had been given it in good faith so I could withdraw cash for him.
It was September 1990, and my Dad had just spent some 4 weeks away in Germany and the US. He came home and was surprised to see his bank statement was short of some £5,000. He’d phoned the bank, who had told him £250 had been withdrawn each and every day whilst he was away and so he put a halt on his card. I was the only one that knew his PIN number so I was the obvious culprit, but I knew that I hadn’t taken it so all I had to do was prove it. Up stepped a nasty young woman DC from Reading Police Station, who contacted me and asked me to ‘pop’ into the station for a chat. I was expecting the call, so off I toddled.
Upon arrival I was immediately arrested for theft, and interviewed for what seemed like forever. I was told I must have taken it. I knew the PIN number, no one else did, and so to “be a man and confess.” I was asked to provide personal details to everything that I did over that duration, provide names of witnesses that would back me up, and provide bank statements. I gave my best mate’s name, a delightful guy by the name of Wilf, and also another friend of mine Louise. Imagine my surprise when I returned a few weeks later to the copper from hell, to find the statements not only didn’t corroborate my statement, but implicated me to the fact I’d taken the money. I’d got holidays, TV, a computer, a microwave and loads of other things. I was shocked. My father had in the meantime helped me move, and so he knew I didn’t have all of this stuff. Both Wilf and Louise had said I’d had the money, and I could smell a rat. Now Wilf had always been a kleptomaniac, I knew that. He’d stolen from other friend’s houses in the past. He’d even stolen from his own house, taking a silver cutlery set that had been given to his parents as a wedding present. More staggeringly he’d also taken his father’s redundancy cheque and had gone on a shopping spree. It was a case of not seeing the wood for the trees, and when I realised it must have been him I realised that all I had to do was prove it.
I got another friend, Alex, to back me up, and this time I got the true statement of how skint I was for the duration. After much too-ing and fro-ing of court dates, we finally ended up in Oxford Crown Court in December 1991. For three days I sat in the courtroom, listening to statements from different people. First of all the bank manager who’d received the phone call from my father asking about the money and putting a stop to the card. Then an afternoon was spent listening to bitchy detective about how she’d not done her job properly and not investigated why my best friends had turned against me. Finally Wilf and Louise came to the stand. They were bought up on the similarities in their statements, right down to the description of what the money had been spent on. Cross examination of Louise brought to light a relationship between the two that I didn’t even know about. My barrister questioned me again, this time with the aim of asking me in the style of the prosecution. He wanted to be sure I wouldn’t crack and admit all, reducing me almost to tears. Almost unable to speak, I told him I couldn’t confess simply because I hadn’t taken it. Whilst waiting outside, the copper asked my father why I hadn’t implicated Wilf sooner. My father told her the truth, I didn’t know.
Finally my Barrister told the court that he didn’t think it was necessary for me to take the stand. It was obvious I wasn’t the one that had taken the card, and it was more then unfair to put me through a cross examination when I’d already suffered enough, not only from the police but also from my father who had distanced himself from me in case I had taken it. He pleaded with the jury to understand that I was an emotional wreck, and that I should be exonerated of the crime. Finally, conclusions made, we adjourned for lunch and for the jury to make their verdict. I remember ordering a hard jacket potato from the court canteen, and had had 2 mouthfuls, when my barrister appeared to let us know a verdict had been made.
I was in pieces when we entered the court. The judge asked the foreman of the jury to give his verdict, to which he replied “not guilty.” I don’t know who let out the bigger sigh, me or my father. As we left we phoned my father’s girlfriend. As he was on the phone the jury appeared in the lift, and I’ll never forget one of them smiling at me as they left.
The truth finally came out. My father had got a new cash point card and had taken his old one out of his wallet and left it on the kitchen surface by his back door. During a visit by me and Wilf, Wilf had seen the card and taken it. He had come to learn the PIN number by being with me on more then one occasion when I was taking money out for my father.
To this day, through the emotional hell that I was subjected to, I still don’t want to know other people’s personal details. In the event of something happening, I can say honestly I don’t know their PIN number or whatever. I don’t care how much they might trust me; I don’t want to lose another friendship with that again.
Can you blame me?
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