The Anatomy of a Robbery

18 June 2024

3.9 MINS

A Saturday evening last month found me in a throng of people on the platform of a metro station in Paris, France. The train arrived, and when the doors opened, the sardines already on the train breathed a little as they had a few more inches for a few seconds.

I was carried along by the tide of humanity and pushed onto the train. No room to hold on — the press of bodies was all that was necessary to keep me upright. But in this crush, I became all too aware of the wallet in my front pocket.

The doors closed, and we were off. I think I breathed a little better then. However, not for long. Within seconds, I saw (I had enough room to look down) that my wallet was gone. I had not felt a thing as it disappeared.

How am I managing the robbery psychologically?

In some ways well, other ways, not so good. It’s up and down. In many ways, it’s grief. Not mourning the loss of money and things, but the loss of my independence, my freedom. I now feel like a slave of the syndicate that stole from me.

My innate faith in others has been shattered. For once in my life, I came face to face with evil, though I never saw the face of my robber. However, I did see, in hindsight, the face of the mastermind on the platform, my robber’s boss, before the attack. It was like looking into the eyes of evil, a version of mankind I did not recognise.

I have had sympathy for them right from the start, a compassion for what has driven them to this, to become the trophy of modern Paris, but not the genuine French people I know and respected from my youth.

I still pray for them and for their current and future victims. I also recognise that their police and justice system is shot to pieces — it is emasculated, a paper-thin veneer, a meaningless charade.

What has happened to the Parisian Police?

The night of my robbery, my hotel reception led me on a wild goose chase to try to locate a police station to make my report. I searched on foot for three hours! In all that time, I never saw a single police officer that Saturday night, but I did engage with one policeman on the phone; he told me to ‘google’ the address of my nearest police station as he had no idea!

Eventually, I did get some good directions from my hotel reception. They led me to a real police station the next morning. However, when I got there, I was told I needed to make an appointment! So, I did, for later that morning. I still had to wait for over an hour to be seen after my appointment time!

The public was not permitted to walk into the police station — we were required to ring a bell on the pavement and wait for an officer to come out to us to assess our situation. The staff on reception I observed during my long wait to be seen (to give my statement) were so casual. They were not ‘doing’ any work, simply sitting and chatting with each other.

I observed a group of ‘plain-clothes detectives’ leave through the security door and evidently go shopping for their lunch. They returned a little while later, chatting and joking, laden with lunch. They then disappeared into the bowels of the station, presumably to continue their banter while having lunch.

They were clearly not proactive police officers and detectives. They were resigned, laid-back, and going through the motions. When I attended the police station, I was prepared to review photofits of possible perpetrators. But no — all they were interested in was collecting data to add to their database and geographical location data to identify the territory of the various gangs. I had no sense that this was a crime wave they had any confidence in turning back.

I wasn’t hurt!

Prior to leaving Australia, the news was full of reports of numerous knife attacks, some apparently random, some likely terrorist in nature. In my robbery, I was not attacked physically, though I was shoved quite violently before my wallet was extracted from my pocket. That put me off guard – a violent shove, but nothing happened, I still had my wallet. Then, nothing, and suddenly, my wallet was gone. I never felt a thing; I was not physically hurt!

I think if I had been hurt, or if there had been a struggle, I may be feeling better, but to have been fleeced and not feel a thing seems worse!

Though I wasn’t hurt physically, I was scarred emotionally. Perhaps the deepest wound is the realisation that it was my own fault, my own gullibility and trust in mankind, that is now shattered.

The next day, getting on the metro again was a challenge. It was like getting back on a horse after you have been thrown! I had to do it! Even though I had nothing to steal this time, and even though there were no crowds, it still got me in the stomach.

Lessons Learnt

The Paris metro is not safe; pickpockets are in charge — take all necessary measures to protect yourself and others. Wait for the next train if the one that comes is already full: they come regularly.

Bad things do happen to good people. Trust in the Lord in all circumstances (Proverbs 3:5-6). I have never so obviously come so face-to-face with evil — it was a massive wake up call.

I have written up this story with the hope that perhaps someone can be forewarned, a robbery can be prevented and a perpetrator might be saved. Not by reliance on police force, but by better smarts on our part and daily reliance on the leading of the Lord.

I think it’s a hard lesson for many of us who have trusted law enforcement in the past. It seems to me that we are living in an age when we can no longer make that assumption.


Image courtesy of Adobe.

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  1. Kim Beazley 18 June 2024 at 9:26 am - Reply

    Sorry to hear that, Jim. My wife and I were in Paris almost five years ago, and we were surprised at all of the street signs warning against pickpockets. And on our first group meeting with our tour director he told us their preferred method was for one person to suddenly spring up in front of you with a fake survey and aggressively ask for your signature, while the accomplice takes your wallet from behind.

    I’m thankful that it only happened to me once in our four days, and that was at the Gare du Nord waiting for the train to Amsterdam, and I just kept walking right through her! Whether from anger or fear I don’t know, probably both.

    Coupled with the crack troops in camouflage gear at the airport and at other tourist spots like Versailles, with automatic rifles at the ready, and the warnings on what to do in case of terrorist attack, it’s great to know that we live in the best country in the world!

    • Jim Twelves 18 June 2024 at 4:56 pm - Reply

      Kim, thank you for your comment, we we do live in a truly blessed nation, compared with many. Shalom, Jim

  2. David Watkins 18 June 2024 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this story Jim and confessing the sin that was done to you. Hope our athletes will be prepared when they arrive in Paris. Your story serves as a warning that lawlessness is on the increase and we today can take nothing for granted according to what was the norm yesterday.

    • Jim Twelves 18 June 2024 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      David, spot on, that’s my biggest lesson from this. In my lifetime, I have watched as the world has become such a different place. Not there there there were no pickpockets in Charles Dickens’s day, naturally there were, but throughout my adult life, of over over 50 years, I have never had to give pickpockets much of a thought.

  3. Sarah 18 June 2024 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m sorry this happened and am saddened to hear of the police apathy.

    • Jim Twelves 18 June 2024 at 7:54 pm - Reply

      Sarah, yes, but I don’t hold any blame to the police officers I met. They were working in the culture they have found themselves in. Its a bit like the proverbial frog being poached in ever hotter and hotter water. I guess their parents, if they were police officers in their generation, would have had a very different perspective. This whole incident has opened my eyes to a suitable change in society, I may never have seen had I not become one of their statistics.

  4. Stephen 19 June 2024 at 8:09 am - Reply

    Thanks for your recount Jim. A distressing time for you. BTW for those who might go to Paris in particular or overseas in general, do your operators recommend a safe way to carry wallets/purses to make it harder for pickpockets?

    • Jim Twelves 19 June 2024 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Stephen, speaking from experience, may I offer these steps of advice!
      a. avoid sardine crushes of people in a tight space, asking for trouble, think outside the box.
      b. never have wallets or phones in pockets if there is a chance of a crowded space in your day.
      c. invest in a body bag of some description to carry wallet etc., worn under outer garment, such as a shirt.
      d. ensure that whatever system you use, there is no ‘bulge’ to indicate possible object of courteousness.
      Hope this helps someone.

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