It wasn’t the crime of the century.
The crooks arrived under the cover of darkness and may well have got away with it had they not been utterly and completely useless.
Their first mistake? To talk so loudly they woke me up. The nattering went on and on. I looked at the clock. It was 1.30am. Drunks on the way home. We live in a city. These things happen.
When the talking didn’t stop, I decided to peek through the curtain. And there they were, illuminated by bright lights, stripping lead from the roof of a commercial building across the road.
They appeared to be so unconcerned about being spotted, or heard, that at first I assumed they must be going about their legitimate business, doing the owner of the property a favour by ransacking the roof.
But why would you do this in the dead of night? And was it really necessary to hide their faces with hoodies?
The penny dropped: burglars. I had to phone the police.
“Don’t wake the children,” hissed my wife. “I don’t want them knowing what’s going on it. They’ll be terrified.”
“I know! I know!” I whisper-shouted. “I’m not stupid.”
I stumbled into the girls’ bedroom (where the upstairs phone is) and dialled 999.
“There’s a burglary in progress. They’re on the roof. Hooded!” I told the operator.
In fact, I told the operator this in quite a loud voice, while I was still in the girls’ bedroom, thus ensuring they were terrified.
The response from West Midlands Police was ... brilliant.
I know. You thought I was going to say rubbish, because that’s what smart-arses like me usually say. But the boys and girls in blue – and the very large dog they brought along – were superb.
Admittedly, they were aided by the incompetency of the raiders, who, had they only thought about it, would have brought along a picnic to share on the roof.
As the patrol cars pulled up in the road and shone their headlights at the building, Birmingham’s own Reservoir Divs were still chatting away. One escaped, two were nabbed. Not a bad result. Better was to come.
The next day, there was a knock at the door and there before me was none other than Sherlock – Pc Sherlock, of West Midlands Police. I kid you not.
He wanted to know if I would give a statement. This was too much. I was the star witness in the Great (Lack Of) Brain Robbery – and Sherlock was on the case.
I broached the subject of the witness protection programme. I needed assurances, a new identity, a new home, like Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. I fancied Miami.
Could Sherlock put in a word with the chief constable, Chris Sims? He thought I was joking. I never joke about luxury overseas travel.
I agreed to give evidence in court, behind a screen.
“I’m a public figure,” I told Sherlock. He made the right noises. He’s good. If I get bumped off, I want him on the squad.
A couple of weeks later, I received a letter from the Witness Care Unit. This was it: the deal. I scanned the text quickly, looking for keywords (“Florida,” “Aston Martin,” “personal chef,” “masseuse”). None of them was there.