Donna and Nathan Marusamy had just tucked the kids in when one of the parents received a troubling notification on their phone. It seemed that sensors outside their home had picked up on something – and what the Marusamys saw next left them horrified. “I wish to God I hadn’t seen it unfold,” Donna later told the Birmingham Mail.
Video surveillance and closed-circuit television (CCTV) have been linchpins of crime prevention strategies for decades. Yes, from parking lots and public transport systems to college campuses and football stadiums, our civic and commercial spaces are constantly being monitored by cameras.
Once considered costly and high-tech, CCTV today is affordable and easy to install. In fact, thanks to high-speed internet connections, devices can now even stream footage straight to your phone. However, surveillance cameras don’t necessarily deter intruders. And as the experiences of the Marusamys show, you may be frightened by what you see.
So who are the Marusamys? Well, Donna Marusamy, 37, is a head teacher at a school in the English town of Walsall, while her 45-year-old husband, Nathan, has a design engineering business. They live with their two children in Streetly, a village just six miles north of central Birmingham.
But in August 2017 the family left their home for a well-earned weekend break in Burnham-on-Sea, some 120 miles away in the county of Somerset. A traditional English seaside resort, the town is known for its sandy beach and iconic pier. Indeed, it has been popular with vacationers since the Victorian era.
In order to safeguard their home in their absence, then, the Marusamys had installed a surveillance system complete with sensors and cameras, which they could monitor remotely via a smartphone app. And at 10:15 p.m. on the evening of August 4, 2017, they received an urgent notification: an intruder had entered their yard.
Donna told the Daily Mail, “The notification came up. We thought we should check it, and we could see the [yard]. We thought it’s either a ghost or someone is in our garden… I said, ‘I think it is someone checking out our house.’”
She continued, “He got in through our conservatory and removed the glass and put it to the side, neatly. He then stepped inside. I was horrified, scared and helpless. I panicked and thought, this is happening. My heart just went, ‘No.’ I just wanted to scream and shout but we were just totally speechless.”
The family watched as the intruder – who was dressed in a dark hoodie and walked with a distinctive limp – began stalking around the house in search of valuables. Shining his torch here and there, he then made his way upstairs and started rifling through the family’s possessions.
“We sat there feeling completely violated as he helped himself to our things,” Donna told The Guardian. “I was just looking at my husband, thinking, ‘He is in our home and there is nothing we can do.’ We were just watching it unfold as I went through a mental list of what things he could be taking. All we could do was give the police a description of him.”
But Donna’s brother-in-law, who lives a short distance away from the family’s home, arrived at the house ahead of the police. Indeed, after receiving a call from Donna about the crime-in-progress, he drove straight over and started looking into the home. He saw that two men were in the street nearby, too, so he asked them if they had seen anyone fleeing the property.
However, the men may well have actually been acting as lookouts. After all, when Donna’s brother-in-law returned to his vehicle, they apparently began using their cell phones. And by the time the police showed up some 15 minutes later, complete with a dog unit and four patrol cars, the men were nowhere to be seen.
Unfortunately, the burglar had fled as well, probably via the conservatory. Still, the good news was that Donna’s brother-in-law had successfully interrupted the burglary. The bad news, though, was that the thief had still managed to steal plenty of items, including some with significant value to the family.
The items taken included an Air King Rolex watch, a Bulgari wedding ring, Nathan’s father’s wedding ring, the family’s passports and a spare key for their Mercedes. However, the thief took neither the cash nor the laptops that were in the house.
Naturally, the burglary ruined the Marusamys’ vacation, and they had to return early to deal with what had happened. But as is so often the case with burglaries, it was not the loss of property that caused the most anxiety for the family but rather the fact of having had a stranger violating their home.
“I wish to God I hadn’t seen it unfold,” Donna told the Daily Mail. “It’s a violation of your own privacy. They just walk in and do whatever they need to do within five minutes, and the repercussions are massive. You feel like you have your hands tied behind your back.”
Police investigators are meanwhile continuing to search for the thief. Unfortunately, though, the perpetrator wore gloves and hence didn’t leave any fingerprints. The burglary has received widespread attention in the media, however, and it is possible that someone may recognize him from the surveillance video.
Indeed, furious with the burglar, Donna publicly posted the footage on Facebook the day after the break-in. “I thought, ‘I am splattering your face everywhere, so I uploaded it to Facebook,’” she told the Daily Mail. The video has now been shared more than 4,000 times.
“I am overwhelmed at the response of Birmingham and neighboring cities and even abroad, trying to catch this guy,” she told the Daily Mail. “I am eager to start a movement within communities to combat these crimes. There are not enough police resources, so the only way we can do it is as a community.”
Meanwhile, the family is still trying to come to terms with what happened. “Now my children sleep in the same bed as me, in fear of someone coming into the home,” Donna told the Daily Mail. “We feel it will take us time to feel safe in our home.”