"One had a machete. I was in fear of my life" - burglary victim
IT WAS like a scene from a TV drama but for burglary victim Peter Roycroft it was all too real.
Widower Mr Roycroft was asleep in his Weston-super-Mare home when, just before midnight, he stirred and was punched in the face by one of three knife-wielding masked raiders who appeared ghost-like in his bedroom.
So began a ten-minute ordeal in which he was cut to his leg with a machete, tape was wrapped around his head and he was tied up as the gang plundered his possessions and stole his prized Mercedes.
Yet despite the terror he felt that night, in December last year, the 69-year-old father-of-four now feels one over-riding emotion.
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"I feel betrayed," he said. "The catalyst for the whole thing was Jamie Staite, a friend of my son Andrew from childhood, who had slept at my home, eaten my food and drunk my beer.
"According to the evidence Staite told his accomplices he knew a nice little 'earner' in Weston-super-Mare, where his mate's dad lived on his own.
"One of these men was a habitual criminal. As far as I'm concerned, Staite is worse.
"He betrayed me and he betrayed my son, and no-one who knows him could easily forgive his treachery."
Peter had been using gloss paint at the back of his house that day, and had opened a small vent window to dissipate the smell.
He doesn't remember closing it and thinks the intruders used it to open the main window of the room and enter his three-bedroom semi- detached home.
Peter hadn't even realised the men were inside before being punched.
He said: "I put my hand up to my face and I had blood on my fingers. There were two men at the foot of the bed, rifling through my dressing table.
"Somebody was leaving the room so I knew there were three men and I thought 'Is this really happening?'. It was surreal.
"One had a machete with a ten-inch blade and I was terrified. I was in fear of my life."
The man with the machete, wearing a black balaclava, then demanded: "Where's the money?"
When Peter replied there was only the wallet he had seen them emptying, the raider responded: "Where's the safe?"
Peter told him there was no safe.
The raider then said: "OK, tell me your PIN (personal identification number). Don't tell me you can't remember it. Don't give me the wrong one. If you do I'll come back and kill you."
Peter said: "When I was threatened I gave them my PIN. I was aware that I might still be assaulted whether I did or not, and also if I gave them a wrong number one of them could go to a cash machine within 150 yards of my home whilst the other two stayed with me.
"I could imagine the result of that. That sort of demand is difficult to refuse when a machete is being brandished within 18 inches of your face."
The robbers helped themselves to two video cameras, a flat screen TV, a Blu-ray player, spirits, bottles containing change and even two sealed envelopes containing unsent Christmas cards.
Peter said: "They wound tape around my legs and mouth and, just to add to the joy, used a couple of jumpers to tie my legs and hands together.
"They left me on the bed and covered me with the quilt.
"One was wearing a baseball cap and scarf, and when he was alone with me he searched boxes on top of the wardrobe and found the video cameras.
"He said 'Do you want the tapes? We're not evil.'
"I felt like saying what do you think you are? You are in my home, you've cut me and you've hit me. I gestured but he refused to take the tape from my mouth."
Peter then heard the men go down his stairs, and he heard a car engine start, but he didn't realise it was his own.
He said: "As soon as I heard the car drive off I ripped the tape off. I had tensed myself a bit, so I had a little bit of leeway.
"I scrambled down the stairs and went to my neighbour, who rang 999."
Peter wrote to Avon and Somerset Constabulary Chief Constable to thank his officers for what happened next (see right).
He said: "I think the 999 call was made just after midnight. My car registration was circulated and a traffic car spotted it in Stokes Croft at 12.40am.
"They spun their car around to pursue it and, after a short chase the thieves drove up a dead-end and smashed the Mercedes into a lamppost, causing the vehicle £6,000 damage. All my property was recovered from the car boot."
The raiders fled and, after a police investigation, Staite and Cotter were arrested but the third man was not brought to book.
It transpired that Staite and Cotter had been living in a halfway house and had struck up a friendship in which Staite identified his old friend's dad as a robbery target.
Both men admitted burgling a Bristol flat from which a Daewoo car was stolen which got them as far as Weston-super-Mare before the battery died.
Staite admitted robbing Peter but Cotter pleaded not guilty and was convicted after a trial at Bristol Crown Court from April 30 to May 4.
Peter said: "I was told a witness for the prosecution was prepared to give Staite an alibi but when she found out the nature of the offence she decided against that.
"She said Cotter bragged about it later, saying how he had chopped an old boy's leg down to the bone 'just for a laugh'.
"It wasn't much of a laugh for me and my son was very apologetic but it wasn't his fault.
"It was terrifying and now I hear every creak in the night.
"I have made some security improvements as a result."