About 30% of housing comprised of social accommodation built no later than the early 60s. An added benefit, my wife had been born in the town and still had relatives living there. We became active in local community affairs and the children went about the business of growing up. On the whole the area remained prosperous through the 80s. And the council invested very large sums of money in the upkeep of its properties. All were rewired, gas central heating was installed and finally all were double-glazed. In short there was none of the decay witnessed in other areas of the UK.
The area was as well policed as any during that period and we suffered no more than average crime. In 1994 it was discovered that I needed surgery and recovery from this caused a break in my career. This was no bad thing as my work was largely to do with computers so I merely transferred to home. About this time the area began to change, robberies increased as did street violence. The Landlord of the local pub was crippled in a vicious attack and left as soon as he and his family could travel. The elderly no longer felt safe on the streets, children began to form gangs. Parked cars were damaged or stolen. This did not much affect myself or my family as my reputation for active self-defence was pretty well established. Although even I felt some misgiving as to safety, despite the security of the new double-glazing. And our ever present collection of dogs.
From my workstation I had an excellent view of our local shopping parade, the local pub and a square of perhaps thirty houses viewed from different angles. As I worked I idly observed certain patterns in the behaviour of my neighbours and their visitors, the movements of vehicles, motorbikes and so forth. If I saw anything suspicious or out of the ordinary I made a note of it, which was seldom! Two years pasted, my daughter, then nineteen, met a pleasant enough young man while babysitting for neighbours. And our son, a few years older, was at University, or in Africa, depending on the time of year. My health had improved enough for my wife and I to take a long awaited holiday in Inverness. And off we went!
When we returned there were strange tensions both among my children and their friends and our neighbours, many of which were also family members. Police seemed to be very obvious and carried out a number of what I considered to be heavy-handed arrests, mob-handed.
Being familiar local policing schedules I knew these officers could not be local. A mass arrest took place in the flats over the local shopping parade. This surprised nobody because these people were strangers and therefore a bit suspect anyway.
What did surprise us was when our daughter's boyfriend failed to arrive as expected one Saturday evening. A further surprise came when we began making worried phone calls and we were told he had been arrested at a nearby coastal town while visiting his mother. At first we were led to believe that this was to do with some problem concerning the ownership of one of his cars - of which he had several - next we were told some story about dodgy VCRs. I was aware that my neighbour rented a garage to the lad which he supposedly used a gym (he was a martial arts enthusiast). As I had a key - it had once been my garage - I suggested that my wife inspect the building to see if there was anything untoward stored there. What she found was completely unexpected. In the garage was an unfamiliar motorbike, strapped to it carrier a sports-bag packed with drugs of various sorts, soft and hard. My wife removed the bag, hid it in the bank of the nearby river. And phoned the Drugs Squad at Scotland Yard. They presumed it was hoax call, logged it and did nothing.
This was Sunday the 1st of September 1996, my wife did not tell me what she had done. On Monday the 2nd at 5.30 in the afternoon a gang of armed men attacked our home in an attempt to recover their missing drugs. They were unsuccessful. The police whom I had alerted as the attack developed arrived in time to make a number of arrests. The arrests continued over the next three days. At one point in time half the houses belonging to our neighbours were empty, people we had known for years were under arrest. After three days of death threats, we were forced to leave.
We were made bound witnesses to the Crown Court but given no help as to accommodation or finance. We had to pay everything ourselves. The case took 15 months to come to court, my wife, myself and my daughter were in hiding the entire time. The principal dealer made a guilty plea thereby avoiding any of the evidence (68 witness statements, forensic and financial evidence) against him being heard. He and the others received two years each.
We are still in hiding.....