THE fed-up family of an 83-year-old woman victim of a home invasion has offered a $5000 reward to catch the thieves who terrorised her in her South Tamworth home early yesterday morning.
The elderly woman was asleep in her bed when at least two men, brandishing a knife, a screwdriver and her late husband’s walking cane, woke her and demanded she tell them the combination to her small, personal safe.
It was the second time she’s been robbed in three months – this time the brazen thieves actually reefed a newly fitted security door from its sockets to get inside.
The woman’s family yesterday said they’d had enough. They’re fighting back with a weapon they think might help police catch the criminals – cash.
“They like to think they’re very clever crims, it’s like a business for them, but we think that a reward might just be enough of a carrot and someone might dob in their buddies,” the victim’s daughter-in-law said.
The family yesterday also decided that they would move their mother out of the neighbourhood. Despite new locks and new security screens, she’s been targeted again, and while it is only an official second break-in. They believe she was targeted on an earlier occasion, but because her daughter was staying there, it was aborted and the would-be thieves left empty-handed.
Neighbours in Gunn Place, where the robbery occurred, and police yesterday spoke out about the home invasion, angered over what they say are deliberate assaults on the homes of the elderly and the helpless.
The woman was robbed of her purse, containing only $50, the safe, with little of value inside, and her bank cards. They also ripped a medi-alert bracelet from her arm, took her telephone, and told her to sit and do nothing for 15 minutes.
Oxley Local Area Command crime manager Inspector Phil O’Reilly said police were perturbed by the break-in.
“This incident is disturbing because of the impact on a vulnerable person in the community,” Insp O’Reilly said yesterday.
“I also hope that people in the community come forward and identify the offenders.”
The woman suffers from poor eyesight and can only describe the pair as possibly aged in their teens and wearing hoodies.
But her family said she was upset, frightened and bewildered.
“Life is not supposed to be like this when you are 83,” a family member said. “That’s why we’ve decided to offer this reward for the arrest and conviction of the people responsible. We really do think we need to do something like this, it might be the only language these people understand.”
Around the area, neighbours yesterday also spoke of their fear of being attacked in their own homes and the distressing notion that the offenders seemed so young.
“They’re kids – but what scares me is you can cut the hinges (on the security screen doors),” the woman neighbour said.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve put in security screens and lights and everything.”
She said she’d asked the elderly woman: “Were they cruel to you? And she said ‘no’.”
But she said it created a feeling of unease to think the elderly were being targeted.
“It’s scary – and it’s all old people who live around here,” the neighbour said.
She said she had an incident last year when she’d arrived home about 11.30pm one night and three teenagers had been hanging around her house; one of them came around the side of the garage.
She said she told them to clear out.
Another neighbour, aged 66, who also did not wish to be named, said he had not heard a thing during Friday’s home invasion.
“She’s in her 80s and the policeman detective came around to our house this morning and asked if we heard anything and we didn’t,” the male neighbour said.
Last weekend, he’d been sitting reading a book when a person appeared in his backyard and climbed over the fence into his neighbour’s backyard.
The male neighbour said his house was broken into four days after moving in two years ago and his wife’s handbag stolen from their bedroom.
“We didn’t have security screens on the door at the time because we’d just moved in,” he said.
“They used the chair to climb up to the window and broke the flyscreen off.”
He knew of other recent incidents nearby, too.
“The lady across the road (aged 69) was robbed while we were in Tin Can Bay a couple of weeks ago.
“She was manhandled, roughed up.
“They broke in through the bathroom. They’d been in the house for a few minutes and found her purse ... and found a combination for a safe, so they held her down and said: ‘Where’s the safe?’ “