In a tale straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel, the son of a Helston burglary victim turned amateur private detective in a bid to track down the culprit – and succeeded.
The police have since admitted that had it not been for Sam Roach’s persistence, his 73-year-old father Simon would probably not have got his valuables back.
And in a twist worthy of a bestseller, Simon Roach had actually spoken to the man who had burgled him, but the police failed to arrive in time.
Mr Roach senior’s home in Clodgey Lane was broken into at some point during the afternoon or early evening of Sunday, November 25, while he was out.
Last Friday 34-year-old Mark James, who had been out of prison for less than five days when he committed the burglary and a second the following day, of Mr Roach’s neighbour, was sentenced to four years in jail.
Speaking to the Packet this week, Mr Roach said he was proud of his son Sam and that the unpleasant experience had had “a happy ending.”
At one stage, however, he looked set to have lost many sentimental items forever, including “irreplaceable” jewellery belonging to his late wife Helen, as well as silver and even his car key – although the car itself was never taken.
A charity box for the RNLI, for Mr Roach is a box secretary, was also taken containing around £30.
When his son Sam heard what had happened he insisted on travelling down from Southampton.
It was he that discovered a bag of electrical items on his father’s driveway the next day, which Mr Roach recognised as belonging to his neighbour.
As Sam was on the phone to the police, Mr Roach went out to look at the items and spotted a man, who turned out to be James, struggling down the road with items from a skip.
Immediately suspicious, Mr Roach said: “I collared him and said, ‘Where are you going with that?’”. On further questioning he was told by James that he was moving in to his mother’s – although he “did not know” the address.
“I was hoping to keep him there until the police arrived. I kept him talking as long as I could,” said Mr Roach, who added: “The police seemed very casual about it, to be honest. They said it’s probably just a coincidence.”
Later, as Sam was out buying a new lock for his father’s door, he spotted a man getting into a taxi at Turnpike and realised it was the same one his father had spoken to.
It was at this point he took matters into his own hands. After getting the name of the taxi firm from the fuel station at Turnpike, Sam rang the taxi company and discovered the man had been dropped at a home in Coinagehall Street.
Visiting the property himself, Sam was suspicious enough to bang on the door of Helston Police Station in a bid to speak to someone – even setting his own car alarm off, in the hope it would attract attention, but to no avail.
He then phoned 999, but was told to call the 101 number – which took 20 minutes to connect to a person.
Still not happy, Sam returned to the home in Coinagehall Street and confronted James, demanding the stolen items be returned.
The thief handed over items stolen from the neighbours, but said he could not get Mr Roach’s items back until the next day.
Calling 999 once again, it was then that the police finally “sprung into action.”
Mr Roach said: “It’s the system that’s wrong. The police were very good and did what they could. I think they were disappointed that the information didn’t get through to them soon enough.”
He was eventually reunited with all his sentimental items, with only the charity box missing.
“The police said that had it not been for Sam we wouldn’t have got our stuff back. I think we were quite lucky really – it could have just disappointed,” added Mr Roach.
Sentencing James at Truro Crown Court last Friday, Judge Graham Cottle described him as “a prolific offender” who was first he in court aged 14, adding: “It appears you have chosen from an early age to live a life of crime.”
Prosecutor Elaine Hobson said James had 37 convictions for 156 offences. He admitted in interview that he had probably spent 18 of the last 20 years in prison.
Defending, Jeremy Leaning said that James was no professional. He had not u