Saturday, 25 June 2011

Robbery at the Post Office

Here, particularly for Jan, is the story of the armed robbery at the Post Office.

This happened years ago, when I was in my early 20s, working in central London and living in north London. One particular day I had finished work early and on my way home from the tube station I called into the Post Office.  A number of counters were open and I was nearly at the head of the queue with just a heavily pregnant woman in front of me when in burst a couple of young men in balaclavas waving some sort of guns around and shouting "nobody move". One advanced to the parcels hatch and demanded it be opened.  When a staff member had opened it he vaulted through with admirable agility, produced a sack and told the staff to fill it with the cash.

At this point his accomplice left and was rapidly followed by most of the queue, particularly those who weren't near the counters. I'd rather liked to have made off myself, especially as I wouldn't have been among the first and so could have changed my mind if they were being shot on exit! However, the pregnant woman in front of me was in distress and clearly wasn't going anywhere, and you just can't run off and abandon a woman in those circumstances, can you?

It didn't take long for the staff to fill the sack and Robber Boy let himself out through the door rather than using the hatch and ran out and off down the road, where he was picked up by Accomplice on a motor bike. I didn't see what followed, but it would appear that he must have loosened his grip on the top of the sack because as they shot up the road the top of the sack fell open and notes flew out and were collected up by passers by!

As he left the building the staff sounded the alarm and the limited number of us remaining were again asked not to leave. Again I would dearly liked to have gone as it was all too clear that a long wait was likely, but again I felt I couldn't leave my new-found friend. The staff came out from behind the counters and started wandering round and when no-one seemed to have taken note of my new friend's condition I decided that if I had to wait then at least things would be done my way. I approached the member of staff who seemed to be in charge and said firmly (in my best imitation of my mother!), "This lady needs a chair and a glass of water. Would you see to it immediately please?" The chair and water were produced and I asked her if she had far to go home and whether anyone could come for her. She said that her husband would come if she could phone him.

At that point the police arrived and said that they would want to speak to each of us in turn and please to be patient. They showed signs of deciding to speak to the staff first, so again my mother-imitation seemed like a good idea and I suggested to one of them that my new friend needed to phone her husband and get home as quickly as possible. This was in the days before we all carried mobiles so we were taken into the office and she phoned him. In fact, the police spoke to the customers first, possibly because they feared my friend might be about to go into labour...  Not long after this her husband arrived and after they'd both thanked me he took her home. I was able to leave in another 5 minutes.

There is rather a nice sequel to this. A couple of years later I had moved a bit further north but still within the same general area and was working locally. One day I was walking between home and work when coming towards me was a man I vaguely recognised and who was carrying a child on his shoulders. As we passed he said to me "Were you in the East Finchley Post Office when it was held up?" I said that I was and realised how I knew him. "You helped my wife," he said. And added, gesturing to the child, "this is the baby"!

1 comment:

  1. Eliza, what a great story, with a heartwarming ending! I am always amazed how small our world really is. I say never burn any bridges because you may well later run into the same person against whom you did the burning. Thank you for posting it, and thank you for helping that poor woman. If I were in her shoes, I would have definitely appreciated your kind gestures.
    XX Jan