Carbonear break-in victims become vigilantes

Nicholas Mercer
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Police assure residents that investigation is active; suspects identified

Emotions ran high in Carbonear earlier this week as victims of a string of break-ins rallied together in an attempt to find answers — and justice — for the wrongs they say were committed against them while on vacation.

Carbonear resident Laura Butt is fed up with the response of the RCMP to a string of break-ins in the community over the last two months.

There were accusations of inaction against members of the RCMP, a confrontation that included "pushing and shoving" between victims and several people with alleged knowledge of the crimes, and a voice recording of an individual with what appears to be in-depth knowledge of how the break-ins were orchestrated.

“It’s not good enough,” a frustrated Laura Butt told The Compass on Thursday, May 15, when commenting on her assessment of the police response.

Butt, along with six other residents, had their homes burglarized over the past two months, though up to Friday, no arrests had been made.

An RCMP spokesman emphasized last week that an active investigation is ongoing, with patrol officers and specialists from the general investigation section (GIS) tasked to look into what has been acknowledged as a spike in break-ins.

Like other victims, Butt was vacationing at the time her home was broken into, and the dwellings were unoccupied.

In her case, the thieves made off with jewelry and a pair of samurai swords, as well as numerous Mother’s Day gifts.

Since returning from her trip, Butt’s quality of life has been severely shaken and she has had trouble sleeping and eating. She has spoken with other victims, and they have expressed similar distress.

This led to a build-up of frustration amongst the homeowners this week, and it all came to a head Tuesday, May 13 when, as a group, they made their way to the police station in Harbour Grace.

Butt said the response she received from officers was not what she expected.

“We were waiting for an officer who was there that day, and he started taking us in one-by-one,” she explained.

Butt said people were singled out among the group and asked what they were doing in the station.

“People are traumatized here,” she said. “It was just unbelievable how he treated those people.”


Detective work

Not satisfied with the response of the police, the homeowners began doing a little work of their own. This led to a conversation with an unidentified male. Butt recorded this conversation, and said the male spelled out in detail who was involved, how they were moving the stolen goods, and how they became aware the homes were vacant.

The Compass listened to the audio, and can confirm its authenticity, though it's not been proven whether the information is credible.

Later that evening, Butt and her husband, Stephen Kelloway, sat in their vehicle watching the home identified by the male "informant."

Things quickly got interesting, said Butt.

“We weren’t parked when an (all-terrain vehicle) came over the hill, fled into this driveway and parked next to a shed,” said Butt. “I said to my husband, ‘that’s him. That’s exactly who I was told about.'

“We could see them in the garage going with bags and packing up stuff.”

Also involved in the vigilante manoeuvre was another victim of the break-ins, Adam Dove.

"We actually seen people running with bags saying, 'Oh we're screwed, we're screwed, we're screwed,'" Dove told CBC News. "We chased them and couldn't find them, approached the young man and asked him questions. He totally denied, and I mean there was a push and a shove, nothing big, and an exchange of words. The RCMP showed up and basically I was almost charged with assault.”


Rattled by break-in

Prior to this incident, Butt often heard about break-ins but never thought it would happen to her. After leaving on vacation May 3, Butt received a phone call from her sister two days later alerting her to the break-in. The rest of the trip was an anxious one as every possible scenario ran through her head.

Upon arriving home, Butt made sure to wash all of her possessions, which took two days. Her sister had taken photos of the aftermath of the break. She was shocked by the images.

“It was like a movie,” said Butt.


Changing perception

Dove has lived in Carbonear for several years. He was in Cuba when his family was robbed, although he did not find out until returning home.

He lost jewelry, money, electronics and a ring belonging to his wife’s grandmother.

“They were in my children’s bedrooms, they took my children’s piggy banks that they were saving up to go to Disney World,” said Dove. “That stuff hurts. I mean, that’s not money; that stuff hurts.”

Dove said there was very little evidence of a break-in.

“The way we were broke into was very meticulous,” he explained. “You could see where a spike and crowbar went into the door, but there was hardly any damage … you’d never say anyone was in there.”

This robbery has changed Dove’s perception of the Conception Bay North community.

“This is Carbonear, this stuff doesn’t happen … that’s crazy,” he said.


RCMP response

While some are less than satisfied with the police response, RCMP Sgt. Greg Hicks offered assurances this week that officers were pursuing every possible lead, and that some suspects have been identified.

Because of the sensitivity of the matter, Hicks said he was hesitant about saying too much, fearing it may jeopardize the investigation.

"I understand there is some frustration by the perceived slowness of the investigation," said Hicks. "But we have to act on evidence; not public opinion."

As for the confrontation on May 13, Hicks said police received a complaint from a resident with allegations he was being harassed.

"He felt he had done nothing wrong," said Hicks. "Officers did mediate that situation, and no charges were laid."

Organizations: RCMP, The Compass, CBC News Disney World

Geographic location: Carbonear, Harbour Grace, Cuba Conception Bay

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Recent comments

  • Unknown?
    May 20, 2014 - 22:49

    To "unknown": What breaking in and damage to property did these individuals do, and from where are you drawing that conclusion? An individual, not a group, went to a suspected person's home and there was a confrontation of some sort. As far as I know and as far as this article says, no damage or breaking in was done by the group of victims of these break-ins. You think the victims are just as bad as the criminals? You're a fool!

    • Unknown
      May 22, 2014 - 18:52

      Oh no not an individual .. 4 people bust into unidentified male shed ! instead of believing bull that's posted on the internet . Maybe people should get there facts straight .. Most of this article is a pile of lies and false information. These people and I'll say it again people, not 1 but 4 people trespassed on someone else's property , did a break in enter , damaged property, took property and assaulted unidentified male. You call them victims lol they completed criminal offences and yes they are just as bad .. They are criminals there self . I can bet I know a lot more about this situation then you ! And I'll add they did it with no evidence , trying to destroy and Tourture inicent people . There sick !! And they will face repercussions for their actions.

  • Unknown
    May 20, 2014 - 17:33

    No doubt it's hard to have your privacy violated and your property stolen but this vigilante anti group are no better in my option, they trespassed on " unidentified male" property, broke in, did damage to property and took things that did not belong to them. You can not take the law into your own Hands. Your just as bad !

  • Well
    May 18, 2014 - 13:29

    People should not be posting on Facebook that they're going on vacation, etc. that's an invitation right there. Lots of articles out there that that you not to do that.

  • Not so quiet observer
    May 18, 2014 - 10:15

    Thieving dirt bags are everywhere. No goals in life and no shame for their actions. What a complete waste of oxygen.

  • Winston Adams
    May 16, 2014 - 15:37

    Don't mess with the RCMP investigators. They will sometimes treat the victim as the criminal. I requested a Victim Impact Statement in 1990. When 10 years old I was a victim of a pedophile, my teacher. 3 Mounties took me to the back room of the Hr Grace courthouse, and were very upset I had a taperecorder. I was choked , handcuffed, stripsearched, jailed and then charged with a crime, dragged through the court for a year and ended up with a criminal record (for resisting arrest, as I objected to the guy sticking his hands inside my pocket) . But it was the taperecorder that set them off. So be careful. The pedophile, with a 30 year history of assaults, got a few months. Justice, Nfld style. Surprised the Compass listened to your tape recording. Winston Adams, Logy Bay

  • Unknown
    May 16, 2014 - 10:46

    One person gets there house broke into, no doubt it's heartbreaking but suddenly everything is connected. To me this story doesn't add up. If they seen people running with garbage bags and heard people in the shed, then witch they confronted the suspect, the group was very upset . They would catch the people with the bags and as for " we screwed , were screwed" well why didn't they enter the suspect shed if they were so mad. Bottom line there is no way with all that rage they would not have caught these so called people with bags.. Think about it

  • John Shanahzn
    May 16, 2014 - 10:17

    Most RCMP in today's force have no clue how to conduct a proper investigation. They are good a policing the street but know not how to go about getting information.

  • Wanda White
    May 16, 2014 - 08:58

    This is 2014, not 1950. If you're going on vacation or not there are a few things you can do. They are: install surveillance cameras and alarm systems, put ALL valuables in a safe or safety deposit box, let a trustworthy neighbor or family member know and give them a spare key so they can turn on/off different lights, tv or radio at different times. buy times/motiuon sensors for inside/outside your home. Never advertse the fact you will be away by/to any source: ie facebook (two more sleeps then Cuba here I come!) That type of info is just what burglars want and look for. Start thinking like the criminal. An open window, a darkened house, and statuses on facebook are an invitation telling theives to come on in. measure your windows and have a stiuuck placed in the frame in such a way as to prevent the window from being pushed open. Install abar type covering on the inside of all basement windows. Keep bushes and hedges neatly trimmed away from windows and doors. Theives go for dark, well hidden areas such as behind hedges and bushes. Maintain ENTRANCE WAYS: to be sure they are well lit, free of debris, kids toys and bikes. DO NOT CONFRONT ANY BURGLARS YOURSELF! THEY COULD BE ARMED!An ounce of prevention IS well worth a pound of cure.