Saturday, 20 August 2022

Couple in armed robbery ordeal

A COUPLE have told of how a gang of armed robbers broke into their house in the middle of the night and stole cash and jewellery worth more than £50,000.

Adrian Pead was hit with a hammer and kicked in front of his wife Victoria Reeve during the raid at their home in Pearson Road, Sonning. She had a hand placed over her mouth to stop her screaming.

Neither was seriously injured during their 10-minute ordeal at the hands of the three men who were dressed in black and had scarves over their faces.

The gang escaped in Mr Pead’s car which they then dumped shortly afterwards.

The couple’s two young children were also in the house when the robbers broke in at about 12.30am on Thursday last week. Mrs Reeve, 42, said: “As I’ve said to many people, it’s your worst nightmare. When you go to bed at night, you feel like you’re safe in your own sanctuary no matter what’s happening in the outside world.”

The robbers came in through the window of the couple’s seven-year-old daughter’s bedroom as she slept.

The couple were in bed when Mr Pead got up because he heard a noise and was confronted by the men on the landing.

He rushed back into the bedroom and tried to keep the door shut but the men hit it with a hammer and then burst in.

Mr Pead, 47, told the trio they could take whatever they wanted but the gang leader struck him in the ribs with the hammer and then kneed him in the same place.

As he collapsed to the ground in pain, the robber and one of his accomplices kicked him repeatedly.

The third man silenced Mrs Reeve, 42, who was sitting in the bed and shouting at them.

She said: “It was all a bit of a blur but I remember screaming, ‘don’t hurt us, please don’t hurt the kids’.”

Mr Pead was pinned down by the two men who kicked him again and held the hammer against his temple while repeatedly asking where he kept his cash and jewellery.

He said: “After they’d finished hitting me I remember telling them ‘you really didn’t need to do that’. It bloody hurt.”

Mr Pead, who feared for his life, told the gang that their valuables were in a secret compartment behind the safe in their wardrobe.

He said: “They just kept threateningly whispering, ‘Where’s your f***ing cash? Where’s your f***ing safe? Where’s your f***ing jewellery?’ over and over again.

“He held the hammer to my head and the message was clear — ‘I’ll kill you’ — so I just gave up and they gave me a good kicking for trying to put up a fight.

“They didn’t know about the compartment but I decided to tell them because it wasn’t worth upsetting them.

“They looked capable of being extremely violent and I thought that if I fought them and lost we’d all be killed.

“At one point they picked up a little leather pouch filled with childhood keepsakes from school trips and things like that. I said, ‘come on, don’t take that’ but he just said ‘f*** off’ and took it anyway.

“They also took a sports bag that I’ve had for about 20 years because the jewellery was all in one bag that they thought was going to split.

“Again, it wasn’t worth much so I asked them not to take it and they told me to f*** off again.” One of the robbers briefly entered the couple’s 10-year-old son’s bedroom to ask if he had a mobile phone.

The boy replied that he did not and the man assured him he would not be hurt before returning to the master bedroom.

Mr Pead said: “They then started rifling through the other drawers and I just yelled at them, ‘look, there’s nothing else to take so just f*** off out of my house’.

“They seemed to get the message — that’s probably the only language they understand.

“As I heard them going outside, I did think I might be able to catch one of them as they fled so I quickly flung my dressing gown on and raced after them down the stairs but they had already got away.”

The robbers ran downstairs and grabbed the keys to Mr Pead’s Audi Q7 from a cupboard and sped off.

They then ditched the car about 200 yards away at the junction with Sonning Lane, where it’s thought a getaway car and driver was waiting.

The robbers’ haul includes about £40,000 worth of jewellery, including two bespoke pieces worth £18,000 each which Mr Pead, an insurance broker, had bought for his wife.

They also seized £10,000 in cash and a £1,500 platinum watch studded with diamonds belonging to Mrs Reeve as well as a small purse containing her mother’s wedding ring and two others, one in platinum with a small diamond and another band of gold and platinum.

Their passports and driving licences were also taken. The couple phoned the police, who were on the scene within five minutes.

Mr Pead was seen by paramedics but didn’t go to hospital. His body is still sore where he was kicked.

The couple moved to Sonning 14 years ago after Mrs Reeve, who works in property management, moved from Bristol to live with her husband, who grew up in Reading.

Now they are considering moving house.

Mr Pead said: “I don’t know if we’ll stay — I’m a big guy but I’m pretty traumatised by it. We’re doing what we can to move on and have already started to get new passports as we can’t just put our heads down and let them beat us.

“We slept at a friend’s for the first few nights afterwards and we’ve been sleeping with the light on since we came back here.

“It’s fine during the day but we don’t feel safe at night any more. We thought it would get better with time but so far it has got worse.

“We’ve got planning permission for work at the back of our garden but whenever I look and see where they came through on to our property it just makes me so angry.”

Mrs Reeve said: “It almost feels a bit ridiculous because it’s like being a child again, when you’d ask your parents not to turn the lights off at night.”

Mr Pead said: “The detectives said they were probably from one of a small number of gangs who are based in the big cities like London, Liverpool or Manchester and come out to commit these robberies. It was probably opportunistic – they targeted us as we had less security than other houses, which we’ve now addressed, and knew we were less likely to fight back because of the children.

“I know I’d have had a bigger go at them if I was on my own but when they’re between you and your children’s bedrooms you have to put any anger or ego to one side and do the sensible thing.

“A friend of mine pointed out that it’s actually harder to do that in the heat of the moment, when the adrenaline’s going, than to come out fighting. It’s pretty brave to just lie down and ‘take one for the team’.

“I think we’re very lucky in that sense and the detectives said I did the right thing because with these kinds of people it could well have ended up being a murder, which made me realise how serious it was.”

Dc Craig Cole, of Thames Valley Police, said: “We are working to identify and locate the offenders.

“I appreciate incidents of this nature can cause concern and patrols are taking place in the area while we investigate.

“If you have any information or saw anything suspicious in the area at around the time of the offence, please call the police as we would like to speak to you.”

All three men were of average height and in their early thirties. Two were white and the third was black. They spoke with London accents and one may have had a slight Irish accent.

Anyone with information should call police on 101, quoting reference number 43180294762.

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