This will probably make more sense if you’ve read Just Another Manic Monday …. (Part 1) first !
… to do a quick re-cap; it’s a Monday morning; it’s now about 9am; we’ve had an armed robbery; we’ve had an arson to motor vehicle (which is undoubtedly connected to the armed robbery); we’ve had a domestic related stabbing; we’ve had a car versus child pedestrian RTC … and now we’re getting reports of a potential attempt child abduction at a local school !!
The call was to St Katherine’s Primary in Bigtown, where one of the parents had reported a man trying to get one of the pupils into his van. The concerned parent knew the child well as a friend of one of her own kids, but had never seen the man or van before. Anything involving children is going to tick all the right boxes where police are concerned, and any report like this was certainly going to put the red flag up !
Certainly it seemed to have aroused the Duty Officer in the Control Room as we finally heard his voice on the radio for the first time this morning “ALL UNITS PLEASE TO MAKE THE AREA OF ST KATHERINE’S SCHOOL. CAN THE DUTY INSPECTOR ENSURE THAT ANY UNCOMMITTED OFFICERS IN STATION ARE ALSO DEPLOYED”. Sounded at first like the risk of a decision being made, but remember, there’s only four of us on response this morning; myself and Pete were still sorting out the RTC which only left Dave and Katie, and they were already on way to the school so that was it. And also, what’s the point of everyone going to the school ??? the one place where we knew this guy wasn’t going to be now !!
Very little detail was available at this point. It seemingly hadn’t occurred to the call-taking staff to ask any awkward questions when the call came through like ‘do you have the details of the van’ or ‘where’s the parent who reported it now’ … little things that may actually assist a police officer trying to deal with the situation and give us a fighting chance. “They haven’t passed that information” was the reply that Dave got over the radio when I heard him enquire. “They haven’t bloody asked you mean” was Pete’s quick retort.
Whilst we rushed to get things sorted as quick as possible at the RTC so we could get over and help, the Inspector, so we learnt later, had gone on another mission …. having disrupted and upturned the morning of our elusive CID brethren, this time his target was the Neighbourhood policing team; to try and get the beat officers and CSO’s out and helping. The CSO’s unsurprisingly hadn’t needed asking, as soon as the call had come through they had all darted straight out, the only reason we weren’t all aware was that they’d kept off the radio channel to keep it clear for important messages (it restored our faith that there is least there is some sensible thinking beyond response teams).
The local beat officers had apparently tried to claim they had ‘planned things to do’ and one had to ‘arrange a meeting with the housing association’, all of which went down like a ton of bricks. It probably didn’t help that the Inspector had located them all in the refs room chomping bacon butties but it quickly resulted in them also being turfed out of the station to help us menial shift officers.
Dave and Katie arrived at the school and were met straight away by the head teacher, who, showing a great deal more common sense and forward thinking than we had encountered so far in this job, had kept hold of the reporting parent in the staff room to be debriefed, but had already got the details of the vehicle in question and a description of the driver for us which, so it happened, she had already rung the police back and passed to the call taker. I wasn’t there, but can only imagine Dave’s temperature would have been approaching boiling point at such news, and you could tell his displeasure form the tone in his voice when he asked over the radio if this was in fact correct.
“Apologies” came the reply “the second call came through to another operator so they’ve created a second CAD report and the two haven’t been linked. Yes, yes, we have got the van details, I’ll put them through PNC now”. So …. not only had the head teacher given us the much needed information some vital minutes before, the control room hadn’t grasped the concept that it was unlikely there had been two attempt abductions at the same school on the same morning (if there had why hadn’t the big flag really gone up ??), but in any case, armed with such an allegation, why had they not even bothered by this time to find out who owned the van and then tell somebody about it ???
We were just getting free from the RTC so as the keeper details for the van came through I called up that we would go straight to the registered address as it was local and start some enquiries, leaving Dave and Katie to gather as much information as they could from the witness and child at the school, and co-ordinate efforts there.
It only took us a few minutes to locate the address to which the van was registered, but it wasn’t there when we arrived. We were just debating between ourselves whether it was best plan to knock the door and risk alerting someone or hang back and see if the van returned, when a guy in his 60’s came out of the front door towards us. “Y’ORIGHT” he said “CAN I ‘ELP SUMMIN”.
“ERR YES SIR” I asked. He looked nothing like the description we’d been passed, but was easily old enough to be our suspects father. “YOUR VAN, THE RED ONE, WHERE IS IT NOW ?” I carried on. “DUNNO NOW” the old guy replied “STUCK THAT IN’T AUCTION IN TOWN LAST WEEK, ONLY GOT FOUR FIFTY FOR IT, THOUGHT I’D GET A DARN MORE”. Well that was a bind. We checked through the old chap’s paperwork just to make sure he wasn’t pulling the wool, but everything checked out so we bid him farewell, updated the control room and set off for a search around to see if by chance the van was still local.
Meanwhile, back at the school, whilst Dave and Katie were busy speaking with staff, the parent witness and the child involved, two of the CSO’s had, with the help of other teachers, organised an impromptu assembly so they could do a ‘stranger danger’ talk to the other kids, as much to try and find out if anyone else had been approached as anything.
The search for the van went on for a good twenty minutes more, until the Road Policing car, having now cleared the RTC themselves and decided to spread the search area a bit wider, were sat up on the edge of Bigtown at the start of the dual carriageway back to Medbury when , as sheer luck would have it, the van drove straight past them. A full, co-ordinated stop was carried out on the van, once another Road Policing Unit and a dog van had been sent from HQ at Medbury (why extra units hadn’t been deployed in the first place …..)
By all accounts, the driver had nearly had a heart attack by the sudden surrounding by police vehicles, sirens and flashing strobe lights. It turned out that the whole thing had been a complete misunderstanding – the driver has been travelling through Bigtown earlier in the day and saw who he thought was his niece walking to St Katherine’s school so had stopped to offer her a lift. On realising that he’d stopped the wrong person he then drove away, not thinking too much more of it and certainly not expecting the massive response that followed. The guy apparently was mortified by now couldn’t stop apologising to the officers with him and did seem genuinely upset by the trouble he’d inadvertently caused.
Dave and Katie, back at the school, went into the guys nieces class and were able to confirm an uncanny resemblance between both children so the story all checked out. The chap told the officers with him that he’d brought the van from the local auction on the prior Friday night and hand only insured it on the Saturday, two days ago, so that explained why PNC checks hadn’t worked out – it was simply too soon.
There was a big sigh of relief from everyone involved that this job had a happy ending for all concerned, but it did prove that you just can’t be too careful in these matters. Everyone was lucky this time but there’s always a next …..
Despite all that had gone on this morning already, it still wasn’t half past ten, and we were on till four in the afternoon. The Inspector asked everyone to return to Bigtown police station for a debrief (and hopefully he was getting the kettle on !) but even that idea didn’t go as planned.
Halfway along the High Street, the radio went off again “Any unit can make Sainsbury’s Supermarket please on Lower Castle Street, they’ve got a detained shoplifter, non-compliant and trying to fight staff”. Off we go again, more whoo whoo’s and nee nah’s to find the store manager and one of his staff holding on to a Romanian national who’d just been doing a bit of shopping himself, in some dear old lady’s handbag, and helped himself to her purse with her just drawn pension in it.
Unfortunately for the said Romanian, he also tried to fight with us and then attempted to bite Big Pete on the left arm, which didn’t go down very well. It went down even less well when he got pepper sprayed and then trussed up on the floor like a sack of potatoes. It transpired that our new European friend was not only wanted three times on PNC here in the UK for theft and robbery offences, by also had a European Arrest Warrant out from France for similar crimes. He wasn’t going to be going far for a while then.
The poor old dear had been completely oblivious to the theft of her purse but luckily one of the store staff recognised the chap offender when he came in from other thefts he’d committed at a different supermarket branch where he used to work so the guy had been followed from the moment he entered the store.
We transported our quarry to his new hotel and lodgings, in the concrete suite at Hotel d’Bigtown whilst one of the Neighbourhood officers, who’d been forced out of their warm, buttered toast induced office, was directly to go and take details from the victim and witnesses at the store.
The Monday morning’s mayhem still hadn’t ended there though – while we were sorting out Romanian Ronnie, Dave and Katie had picked up another Grade One emergency call to deal with a person who’d very recently escaped from the A&E department at the local hospital (completely unbeknown to them) and was now precariously balanced on the ledge of a bridge spanning the main dual carriageway between Bigtown and Medbury.
Quite what the issue was that brought them to be in this situation was I’m not sure, but ether way, they’d been taken into hospital after allegedly swallowing 48 paracetemol (don’t try that at home folks – it’s really not good for your insides) and was now legs-a-dangling 40 ft above a fast flowing carriageway. Dave and Katie needed help, if for nothing else, to get the traffic stopped before their person either jumped or fell and some poor innocent motorist passing below got tangled up in a terrible situation not of their making.
Yet again, the Road Policing Unit, who had again tried to sneak off away from the hell-hole full of work that was Bigtown, back towards the sunnier climes of Medbury, were forced to about turn and rapidly make their way back to us to help get the traffic on the road below the bridge brought to a halt. Problem was, they were just one car … and it was a dual carriageway. They could only slow and stop vehicles travelling in one direction at a time. It then became a game of chance to them – which side of the road to stop first, with the added concern that if our potential jumper saw officers stopping the traffic moving – before they got chance to get to the next exit, turn and return on the opposite carriageway, things could very quickly have gone wrong.
The next nearest traffic unit, with all the bells and whistles flashing strobe lights was a long way off, virtually the other side of the county, so it was left down to our Sergeant, in his trusty panda with a spinning bit of plastic on the roof to control the traffic on the one side while the Road Policing boys dealt with the other. If the Duty Officer back in the control room hadn’t had high blood pressure problems before, I kinda guessed this would have been the morning for things to start. While they were frantically running round trying to find us a trained negotiator from somewhere …. anywhere …. Katie was doing her best to engage the chap in a bit of conversation and at least keep him focused on us rather than the shiny black tarmac which lay 40 ft below him.
Turned out all the guys problems revolved around his girlfriend leaving him after she’d caught him out doing naughty things with one of her mates. As bad as that may be, is it really something to poison yourself over and then throw yourself under a lorry moving at 60mph ?? After a few minutes of Katie talking to him, he started to get very emotional quite anti towards her as a female, seeming to view Katie as ‘another of them’. Dave had sensed where the guy was going so stepped in quickly to try and refocus him. I couldn’t believe it when Dave was recounting to me later; him, Katie and the guy over the wrong side spent 20 minutes discussing Top Gear, and whether they thought James May was really like that or if it was just an act !!?? Katie said she didn’t even know who was who on the show because she’d never watched it, but just agreed with everything Dave was saying as it seemed to be working !!
And it really did seem to work, as after discussing which of the Top Gear adventures was each if their favourites, the guy decided things weren’t that bad after all and, to everyone’s relief, lifted himself back up from the brink so that Dave and Katie could get him back over to the safe side.
With that chap safely escorted back to the hospital, and their security staff sat with him in the hope they wouldn’t let him wander off again, we finally all got back to the Report Room at Bigtown police station, somewhat drained to say the least, and wondering to ourselves if we’d missed something important about today, like a daytime full moon, or if someone had stuck crazy juice into the water supply. Having washed out the coffee cups that we had filled with steaming hot beverages some four hours ago, and refilled them accordingly, we now sat down to begin writing up the mornings events. Including the needed remand file for our errant European, this was probably going to take a while.
Oddly, given how the day had started, it stopped just as quickly ! Other than the usual run–of-the-mill Facebook ‘I Hate You’s’ and ‘my ex won’t give me my dragon back’ (we really had one of those calls once – thought they meant a bearded dragon lizard thingy but they actually meant a stuffed toy dragon !!) there was not another call we needed to deploy to immediately for the rest of our shift – which was good as there was a lot of writing to do. And it meant the Inspector did eventually get the chance to make us all a brew !!