One morning in June 2016 at an ordinary family home in Worcester Park, south London, the doorbell rings.
The frail 88 year old man slowly makes his way to the door of his daughter’s house. No one is at home except him. It is just another parcel delivery.
The deliveryman says that there is some paperwork that the elderly man needs to sign so the elderly man invites the deliveryman into the kitchen and the two begin to chat.
Old people love to chat. But this elderly man loves even more to talk, especially after his wife of over 40 years died three years ago.
Having led a long, honest, hardworking life, the elderly man certainly has plenty to chat about.
The elderly man signs the paperwork then walks the deliveryman to the door. He thanks the deliveryman and closes the door.
When the elderly man enters the living room he finds that the house has been robbed. He goes into the other rooms and finds them ransacked.
During the few minutes that he was chatting to the “deliveryman” in the kitchen, other thieves entered the house and robbed everything of value in his daughter’s home: money, jewellery, electronics…
OK, cash and possessions can be replaced. But the thieves also took sentimental items that his wife, a good woman, left her daughter before she died.
This happened to a family that I have known for most of my life.
It is said that the worst crime is theft; all other crimes are simply manifestations of theft.
When you unjustly kill a man, you steal his life and rob his children of their father. When you lie to someone, you steal their right to the truth.
When you rape a woman, you steal her dignity. When you cheat someone, you steal their right to fairness.
When you unjustly imprison someone, you steal their liberty and rob their family of their presence.
In today’s society, theft is not treated as seriously as it once used to be. I met burglars in prison serving 10-month sentences for breaking into dozens of homes to steal.
In Britain, a 10-month prison sentence means that you stay in prison for about two months and then go on “home leave” for three more months.
The burglars argue that they are just trying to make ends meet, and anyway, they are only robbing the insurance companies, not the families whose homes they break into.
The families will get their money back from the insurance companies, they say.
But which insurance company can return to the violated families their sense of security that has been lost? Or the paranoia and fear that lasts for weeks, months or even years?
I know relatives whose houses have been burgled. The young children returned to see their bedrooms ransacked and their toys all over the floor.
For several weeks after the burglary they were afraid to sleep in their bedrooms, preferring to sleep in their parents’ room.
I hate thieves.
I detest and despise these creatures. I have chased thieves down the street on foot and by car, and I have spent the night in a cold van outside the house waiting for them. Thank God for both of us, I never caught them.
The way society treats theft is a reflection of that society.
While in a British prison, I once met this career criminal serving a sentence for armed robbery. He told me about his career plans upon leaving prison:
“I will rob a few post offices that will get me 200 grand [£200,000]. But I will do them with an axe or a machete, not a firearm, so I will only get 8 years. Of the 8 years I will do four [in the UK prisoners serve half the sentence] so I will make £50,000 a year for four years.”
He wasn’t joking, he was dead serious.
But who can blame him? I met thieves in prison who received suspended sentences for stealing cars and others who got a few months for mugging people.
If there is one solace to the victims of thieves, it is that God does not take theft lightly. What goes around comes around, as the following true story shows.
My final year in prison (2014-15) was spent in a federal prison compound at the top of a mountain in Pennsylvania, USA.
One of my cellmates was a Colombian godfather who has been in prison since 1987; he is serving life for cocaine trafficking. At one time, his cartel controlled 90% of the global cocaine trade. This guy is most definitely premier league.
The plot of the famous gangster movie “Scarface” starring Al Pacino was partly inspired by the story of this man and his cartel.
I have written more about him in the book that I am writing about my experience. At the end of this article is a link to another reference to him in one of my other blog posts.
After the lights would go out at 10:15pm, my cellmate and I would sometimes chat in Spanish: I lying on the top bunk and he at the bottom. It was from him that I learned how to speak Spanish; he hardly spoke English.
Sometimes he would tell me stories about the 30 years that he has been in prison in the United States. One of these stories was the tale of the two Mexican prison thieves.
It took place at a United States Penitentiary – a high-security prison, equivalent in theory to a UK Category A prison, but much more dangerous in practice.
Once upon a time, there were two Mexican-Indians (indigenous Mexicans), a tall one and a short one. They were the best of friends and would eat, sit, walk and talk together. Both had been at the prison for several years.
The two Mexicans were prison thieves. One would keep lookout while the other would steal from the cells of other prisoners. They would sell on the stolen items to other prisoners – there certainly is no honour among thieves.
One day the short one kept lookout while the tall one entered a cell and stole from it. On this occasion he was spotted. Someone saw what happened and they told the owner of the cell.
Unfortunately for the pair, the cell belonged to a members of a fearsome Mexican prison gang known as “Barrio Aztecas” or simply “Los Aztecas” (The Aztecs).
The Aztecas were feared throughout the American prison system; this in addition to their even bigger reputation in the drug-ridden provinces of Mexico.
The next day, the short thief was summoned to the cell of an Azteca leader. A couple of Aztecas were standing beside him.
There is only one thing in prison which is as bad as being a rat (informant/snitch/grass) and that is a prison thief. A prisoner who steals from his fellow prisoners is never shown any mercy.
With a smile on his face, the Azteca leader handed the short thief a “shank” (an improvised bladed weapon) and calmly said to him:
“OK, here’s the deal. You kill your friend and you will live.”
The short thief and the tall thief had been friends for years; they were very close.
What do you think the short thief did?
The short thief did not even bat an eyelid before deciding that he was going to kill his friend. And that is another thing about thieves: these creatures are so despicable that they have no morals or principles or loyalties, even to each other.
Immediately, the short thief went to the cell of his partner, the tall thief, and stabbed him to death. He disposed of the murder weapon then hurried back to his own cell to wash blood off his clothes before the body was discovered and the alarm was sounded.
But when the short thief arrived back in his cell, someone was waiting for him. It was the Aztecas. The short thief did not leave his cell alive.
If you are a thief, take heed from this story and stop now because one day your luck is going to run out and your theft will come back to bite you like happened to the two Mexican prison thieves.
And if you are a victim of theft, rest assured that every thief one day pays for his crimes.
Read about who I am, why I was in prison and why I blog here.
There is a mention of my Colombian cellmate in one of my earlier blog posts “The Dove of Santa Rosa Prison: A Story That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.”
I write a new blog post every Monday morning at 08:00 GMT/UTC. Enter your email address in the mailing address box below to receive a notification every time I update my blog.