I’ve been on the shooters side of an automatic assault rifle hundreds of times in my life; there’s been a couple of hairy situations where there was a live person pointing one back at me but I can hand on heart say it was nothing compared to staring down the barrel of one from my living room window…
I was enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon lounging in my pants on my sofa and soothing the effects of a night out drinking in town. My living room was in low light as a result of my blinds being closed to protect my headache from brightness outside. The mundane Sunday afternoon TV was interrupted by the noise of my phone vibrating and alerting me of a text message. It was from Hannah, the girl that lives opposite and it contained an interesting question:
“Hi Lee, are you aware that the armed police are outside your house?”
This was not just a question but also a heads up about a fairly uncommon occurrence seemingly taking place. To be honest I didn’t really give it the attention or concern that it would turn out that it needed and I rolled off the sofa grumbling about the inconvenience of having to lean into my bay window and roll the blinds open. Hannah’s tip off about the armed police being “outside your house” led me to assume that they were in the general area of the busy main road to the front of my house but not specifically interested in my pad. As the slats of the blinds slowly opened I squinted to see what was going on outside and to my absolute shock I realised that they weren’t just in the general area… they were here for me!
The sight of two firearms being pointed directly at me from 10 metres away made me instinctively react and hit the deck. As I crouched below my window sill I muttered to myself, “What the..?” My mind began to race about why 2 police officers armed with a ballistic shield and guns were stacked up outside my window. I decided to peer over the ledge and confirm that I wasn’t still drunk and see if I could work out what was going on. Several cars had parked sideways across the road and cordoned off the area whilst a group of police officers were moving around behind the two armed response men. If I was in any doubt that I was the subject of their attention, their next act left me absolutely sure that I was. One officer called out to the commander in the rear, “One male in the bottom window, shirtless and I can’t see his hands.” The only thought on my mind now was, “I’m in real danger of getting shot here.”
I moved away from the window whilst keeping low and made for the upstairs in order to think and get a better view from the elevated upstairs window… plus I had more time to act if they had suddenly kicked the door in. My mind was absolutely racing and I struggled to find a reason about why they were here for me. I desperately tried to come up with a logical reason:
“Maybe someone in the neighbourhood has it in for me, maybe they rang the police and said that the bloke on the end is a marine and has a machine gun in the house.”
“Maybe I’ve dropped some equipment in the garden that looks suspicious or someone has seen my military equipment and thought it was dangerous.”
I then had a pang of complete horror as I contemplated the thought that I may have mistakenly brought back some unused ammunition or pyrotechnics from an exercise; maybe not spotted them in my kit and they would now be sat in my house ready to be found. I was certain I hadn’t but in this situation of panic I started to entertain the thought that if they came in and I did, I’d likely be on my way to a prison sentence. I convinced myself to have a peek out of the upstairs window, you know to make completely sure they were here for me. I slipped a hoodie on to save my dignity and slowly peered out of the window and down. The two officers raised their weapons towards my new position and said, “A second male in the upstairs window with a black hoodie on.” Shit, they were definitely here for me and now they thought there were two of us.
I had a quick chat with myself and weighed up my options. There was no back way out as my house contained an extension similar to a granny annex that currently had a lodger residing in. I couldn’t communicate through the windows and I couldn’t just sit there and do nothing. I’d been the guy kicking someone’s door in with a rifle in my hand many times, in training and for real… in no way did I want to be the recipient of a door kicking. There was only one thing for it, I had to walk out and confront them.
As so often happens with most people in a stressful situation, dark humour kicked in. I imagined the scene that would play out if I did actually have a stun grenade left in my house and decided to use it. Imagine the officers faces if they knew a Royal Marine lived here and I opened the door, rolled out a stun grenade and shouted, “If you want me you’ll have to come and get me.” I soon stopped laughing when I realised it was only a couple of weeks ago that 2 female police officers had been tragically killed by a grenade thrown from a house. The incident would no doubt still be raw and playing a big part in the emotions of the officers. “I think it’s best not to start throwing things at the cops Westy my boy.”
Resigned to handing myself in for a crime I had no idea I had committed I cautiously approached my front door. The sound of the metal mechanism of the handle seemed as loud as a shot being fired and I soon found myself stood in the doorway at the mercy of the armed police and dazzled by the lights of the response cars. I kept my hands visible to my sides and opened my palms whilst inching a little further out and said, “What’s all this about?”
One of the officers shouted a series of commands and questions at me:
“Keep your hands where we can see them.”
“What is your name and are you the property owner?”
“Is there anyone else inside?”
“Is there a residence to the rear of your property and do you know that person?” whilst pointing into the pub car park at the side of my house.
I said, “What person?” and the officer told me to advance before pointing into the scene of a man being robustly apprehended by a brace of coppers over a wall. A little light was now cast on the situation as I noticed the recent new lodger of my extension being handcuffed a few yards away from a massive, shiny, samurai sword! The bloke had gone haywire with it and had taken a swipe at his girlfriend with the sword. After she had legged it he had turned his attention to threatening the pub drinkers with it.
The lad was nicked and the officers lowered their weapons and we became relaxed. With the threat now dealt with I invited the coppers into my house for a chat. I explained that I was a Royal Marine and found it quite uncomfortable to be on the opposite end of a barrel, knowing exactly what the outcome could look like and we shared a laugh. As more coppers entered my house I was a little bit taken aback by a familiar face striding in; my cousin Steven!! I spoke to him with a little disbelief in my voice and said, “Mate, you could’ve told your mates I wasn’t some weapon totting lunatic.” He smiled and replied, “Yea I did see your name come up as the home owner but I haven’t seen you for a while and wasn’t exactly sure you lived here. Didn’t want to give them a false sense of security in case there was a bloke with your name that was a threat.” We had a laugh about it and I accepted his point.
The story hit the papers the next day and the main comment from people reading it was about the unlikely excuse the men in the pub would’ve given to their wives about staying out so long…”We were locked in the pub by the armed police.” Yeah right would be the reply.
The main drama was over but there was still more to come. I spent the rest of the day packing up the lodgers stuff and left a voice and text message stating he was obviously not welcome on my property and his belongings would be left outside once he was free to get them. Being a Sunday I had to drive back to my camp in Devon ready for work on Monday morning. I thought I’d have a little bit of time without him bothering me whilst he was banged up. I was wrong.
On the Monday night I received a phone call from my next door neighbour Dan, “Westy, your back door window has been smashed and there’s blood all up the walls. I can see a torch light on inside. I’ve called the police.” Brilliant.
The police had arrived and then Dan had passed the phone over to them. “Your lodger has smashed your window to get in and cut his hands and wrists open whilst doing so. There is a massive chunk missing from his wrist and blood has been spraying out all over your inside (white painted) walls. The male is now in an ambulance in a bad condition. Oh, and we had to smash the PVC door in with a battering ram.” When I questioned the need to completely break the door when access was able to be achieved I got the response, “Life in danger, we had to do it and are covered by law.”
So that was that, I had been subjected to the real possibility of surviving Iraq and Afghanistan to then being shot in my own living room. I’d lost a tenant who had then smashed my window causing the police to completely destroy the door and had my extension redecorated in jet streams of human claret. The bloke was sentenced and I’m sure that it was no coincidence that exactly two years later I suffered another incident of damage at my house whilst I was away.
On a tour of Afghanistan I received an email from a girl that was lodging in my house whilst I was away. ‘A man arrived outside the house around midnight last night and started banging on the door. I remained inside petrified and watched on as he took out a machete and chopped up your garden bench and skinned your bushy front garden tree. He then ran off shouting, “I’m Bruce Lee don’t f*** with me.” I will be moving out this week as I am scared for my safety.’
I’m not a betting man but, well, there’s really only one guess isn’t there? Oh well, at least nobody died in there… at least I didn’t have to go in there to find his blood all up the walls and the remains of a dead body…
That is a whole other story for another time!