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Intruder in our dream house
by Les rats bleus • Sun 31 Jan 2016 18:27

Hi all,

We are newly registered to the forum (although we have been reading the posts with interest for over a year) and would have hoped that our first post in here would have been something less dramatic than what we are about to write.

First of all, let us introduce ourselves. We are Sandra and Graham and we were lucky enough to buy a beautiful house in the Creuse last April. We are not usually so lucky but we figured we were due some good luck to restore the balance. Unfortunately normal service has been resumed and after just nine months of house ownership in the third most crime-free departement in France, our home has been broken into and ransacked by an intruder whilst Graham was working in the garden 200 metres away from the house (I was in the UK at the time).

To cut a long and rather dramatic story short, the police caught the man inside our house and the processes of the criminal justice system were set in motion. The man was arrested, statements were taken, the scene of crime people came over from Gueret and eventually the mess was cleared and a now altered normality/reality was restored. I can't begin to say how much we have been affected by this incident. The beauty and serenity and the peace and tranquillity have been replaced by fear and caution. We had never been so much at peace with the world as we have been since living here – we’ve never been happier. We had finally found a place where we could belong, away from the worst of the human race... but apparently not. :(

Our question is, does anyone know what happens next? Will we be informed by the police of the outcome of the proceedings or will we need to subscribe to a local newspaper to find out the end of the story? Of course, being in a small community, the people at the local bar knew more about the incident than we did when we spoke to them yesterday evening, but our French (although improving rapidly) doesn't have the precision to understand entirely accurately what was being said to us.

We lived in fear of crime in the UK but in 25 years of living at our last address in a relatively high crime area, we had no such problems at all. So this is all a bit new to us.

I had rather hoped that my first post might have been about the best brand of washing up liquid to buy in France or perhaps a gardening question, but hey-ho.

We hope to take part in this forum in happier times in the future.

Sandra & Graham

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Les rats bleus
9
Jan 2016
Re: Intruder in our dream house
by virtdave • Sun 31 Jan 2016 19:22

Though it's not much help or comfort at this point, what happened to you is (statistically) very rare in Creuse--every year Le Figaro publishes a ranking of crime rates in France by department, and Creuse is always among the safest. We've had our place for 30 years, and are only there from May to October--and have never had any real problems, tho our house is extremely isolated. Well, one winter 10-15 years ago someone used our guest house, according to the local cops probably as a love nest--but other than using a bit of firewood for heating, they did no damage. We did report the break-in to the police, who (tho they declined to tell us who it was, and their smiles suggested they did know, since we declined to register a formal complaint) assured us they'd have a chat with the perps and that it wouldn't happen again, which was correct.
If you suffered no material damage (tho I'm not discounting the emotional stress), there'd be no likelihood of any benefit to you in pursuing the incident further; but you might chat with the local gendarmes and ask if they recommend anything more. Years ago, we considered installing a burglar alarm system, but did not. Perhaps just a fake sign (in French, of course) claiming that the house is under vigilant telemetric surveillance would be of some comfort to you, maybe even of some use.

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virtdave
1112
Sep 2008
Re: Intruder in our dream house
by lavaufranche • Sun 31 Jan 2016 20:03

Welcome to the Creuse Sandra and Graham
I think you have been very unlucky to have suffered a break in. Hopefully not too much has been damaged. We had a break in soon after we had bought some 11- 12 year's ago, and received a distress call from a Dutch neighbour. I can remember driving down to the Creuse with speed cameras flashing on the way. Our Dutch neighbour kindly insisted on us staying the night before surveying the damage.

Our place was n't that secure then, so it looked as if some youngsters had broken in just to drink their beers, they had lit a gas light (which was thoughtfully put out after), drunk beer they had brought with them (the English beer was left), broken an inner door down and scattered hand cream and dried herbs all over the place. What was taken - a crash helmet plus a lighter thankfully all our tools were safe. Our suspicion was that one of the lads had lived in the hamlet and moved to La Chatre but revisited for old times's sake and our property was easy to break into as the window and shutters were broken.

The police had come out to our house, and we did meet them in Boussac but it did seem a bit like "Hot Fuzz". The neighbours were more shocked than us in that a crime had been committed in the hamlet. I know it must have worried you ,but please do n't let this experience put you off. Your neighbours will be even more vigilant of strangers entering the commune.

Hopefully, you can make your house more secure. It would be interesting to know if the burgler was a local man or just passing through. The Limousin has become more accessible unfortunately since we started coming down. We are still pretty relaxed about crime in the Creuse but try not to make our place look too inviting. Best of luck with the clear up. The Gendarmes have a duty to keep you informed on the proceedings.
best wishes
Mike

lavaufranche
60
Nov 2006
Re: Intruder in our dream house
by virtdave • Sun 31 Jan 2016 21:51

one more point: If your house was unlocked, and stuff was damaged or stolen, your insurance might be much less helpful than if it were a break-in. Most French home insurance policies require the owner to lock up to be fully responsive.
One also sometimes sees signs fixed to houses announcing "maison piégée". It's apparently illegal in France to booby-trap a house, but such a sign might deter uninformed kids.
Some friends of ours finally sold their place in the Midi and bought a house in Creuse, because of repeated break-ins they'd had down south. We're relatively quite fortunate here.

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virtdave
1112
Sep 2008
Re: Intruder in our dream house
by rictel • Mon 01 Feb 2016 12:18

Welcome to the forum Sandra & Graham, shame it's not under happier circumstances. I echo lavaufranche's comment that you have been very unlucky, but in some ways lucky that Graham was on the scene & able to get the Gendarmes down in time to catch the guy red handed. Hopefully they will keep you informed as things proceed, or maybe you know someone more fluent in French who can enquire on your behalf ? It's not totally crime free as you have sadly found out but most of the break ins that we hear about are to holiday homes that are unoccupied & , in some cases, the most bizarre things are taken. Our Friends had a break in & the thieves took some small change & a can of petrol, & some other people we know lost some small tools, the video recorder , a pair of wellingtons & the burner rings off the gas cooker !!

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rictel
Moderator
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Dec 2007
Re: Intruder in our dream house
by Dave • Mon 01 Feb 2016 12:55

Welcome to the forum. It's sad to hear of your break in. It seems amazing that it happened while you were gardening - I'd never think about locking up while we were doing that. The Creuse does have low crime thankfully and many people still don't lock their doors except at night. Our English neighbour once left his back door unlocked for the entire winter because they forgot to lock it when they left in October and it wasn't noticed until they asked me to check the house in January. Nothing was missing. Rural holiday homes are I guess more at risk and there seems to be the occasional gang that comes out from the bigger towns to try their luck.

I hope things remain safe and tranquil for you both and that you don't stress over it for long. A few extra precautions might be worth while but hopefully things will be peaceful from now on.

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Dave
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Aug 2004
Re: Intruder in our dream house
by Les rats bleus • Mon 01 Feb 2016 23:07

Thank you all for your replies and your kind welcome.

It was only because the gendarmes had surrounded the house before the guy came out that nothing was stolen, and the only damage was the broken window in the salon (where he had broken in) and a torn antique lace tablecloth where presumably his dog had jumped up. As we are naturally security conscious, the house was locked because Graham was working in a part of the garden that is in a hollow in our land and he could only see the roof of the house from there. He didn't, however, feel the need to close the shutters as we too are isolated and some considerable distance away from (and out of sight of) our nearest neighbours. We can count the number of visitors we have ever had here on one hand so he wasn't expecting to see another human being that day. We have metal shutters downstairs so had they been in place the intruder would have certainly made more noise breaking in. Actually, the intruder closed all the shutters once he was in the house (for whatever reason). The police believe he was looking for firearms.

I have to say that the insurance company were very helpful and sympathetic, and the police were kind, good-humoured and seemed to be more concerned about us worrying too much. There didn't seem to be an option whether we were pressing charges or not; basically, Graham was asked to sign on the dotted line to say that he was.

Unfortunately our lives are such that we have to return to the UK fairly frequently and are forced to leave the house empty (sometimes for a few weeks at a time) so we will certainly be looking into installing some kind of security system.

The reassurance that the police are duty-bound to inform us about what is going on is helpful - so thank you for that, Mike.

Graham asked the police if the man was local and they replied 'parfois', which didn't really tell us a lot. Maybe he just has connections here.

Thank you all again,
Sandra & Graham

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Les rats bleus
9
Jan 2016
Re: Intruder in our dream house
by Les rats bleus • Tue 07 Jun 2016 13:32

I just thought I would give you an update on this.

Well we hadn't heard a peep from the police - a fact we mentioned to our mayor. He said he would look into it but we didn't hear back from him either. Then at a village event he came over and asked us if the police had contacted us. We said that they hadn't. Quite why this event of about 50 invited middle-aged people needed a gendarme to be present we couldn't guess (crowd control?) but there was and our mayor asked him to sort it out for us. He got on his phone and did exactly that. It transpires that our burglar is currently being detained in a mental hospital awaiting a complicated (apparently) trial on burglary, arson and terrorism! Why do these dramas always happen to me?

Happily, despite nearly losing it in a recent freak car accident in the UK where I wrote the car off, life here has resumed a more tranquil pace and my current drama is merely a continued battle with garden chafer beetles on my cherry trees.

All is well...

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Les rats bleus
9
Jan 2016
Re: Intruder in our dream house
by lavaufranche • Wed 08 Jun 2016 12:57

Good news - thank you for the update. Creuse is a low crime area. Enjoy a nice, peaceful, dry summer.
best wishes

Mike

lavaufranche
60
Nov 2006
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