|Hanger Hill Hit By Spate Of Robberies|
Woman and daughter tell of escaping from four masked home invaders
A mother and daughter were forced to lock themselves in their living room to escape four masked invaders at their Ealing home.
As the men forced their way through four locked doors into the Unarket family’s kitchen, the women screamed at their 78-year-old grandmother to lock herself in her bedroom upstairs.
Their experience was just one of nearly 200 burglaries in Hanger Hill between February 2018 and February 2019, in a situation that seems to be getting worse.
With only two local officers stationed in Acton, without a designated car, residents are being forced to consider private security firms to protect their properties.
Hemali Unarket had been planning her sister’s wedding with her mother and grandmother before the men broke in. Malimi – the bride to be – was on the phone discussing plans for her big day. What followed was 30 minutes of terror as Malimi listened, helpless, on the other end of the line as her family home was invaded.
Although it happened a year ago, Malimi remembers it vividly: “This whole event, as it took place, I was on the phone. While I was driving, I heard the banging noise. At first, I thought someone had hit my car.
“The noise got louder, so I parked up and said: ‘Hemali – are you sure there isn’t anything wrong at home?’”
At first, the sisters thought it was their dad coming back, struggling with a stiff door. But when Hemali saw his van wasn’t in the driveway of their Haymills Estate home, she knew something was wrong.
She ran downstairs to warn her mother, and found her frozen in front of the intruders. She grabbed her mum and the pair ran into the sitting room and locked themselves in.
Hemali remembers: “I had my mum’s phone next to me, so I called 999 straight away. The woman on the phone said there’s a unit coming to you, they’ll be there in five minutes, this and that. To be honest it took them about 25 minutes to get here. I tried to keep myself calm, but I couldn’t.”
Hemali’s mother was in shock.
“I said to her: ‘You know what? If they are in the house let them take whatever they want to take, we can’t do anything.’”
The women’s grandmother was upstairs, and Hemali screamed at her to lock herself in her room. The 78-year-old sat alone through the whole ordeal, comforted over the home’s landline.
Malimi, still in her car, pulled over to the side of the road, calling up friends and family in a panic.
“I used my other phone to call my cousin who lives in Wembley and said can you quickly come home. I called my fiancé, I told him get home as soon as possible.”
She also called a neighbour, who was the first on the scene and able to tell the frightened women that the men had fled the house.
Hemali remembers: “It happened on a Thursday and that whole weekend, we were worried in the house. We didn’t know if we should stay or not.”
Their grandmother didn’t sleep for four days.
The thieves had made off with Malimi’s wedding ring, which had been out on display, ready for the wedding.
The events of that day have made them change how they live their life.
Hemali said: “Now we have CCTV in our entire house. The last two or three years have just been ridiculous.”
The break-in at the Unarket family home happened last April, and according to many locals, the situation is getting worse.
A neighbourhood Whats App group has been set up, and the sisters say it buzzes constantly with new reports of burglaries and stolen cars.
Hanger Hill Neighbourhood Watch coordinator Aleksandra Turner agrees that crime is getting worse.
She said: “I think it is part of a London-wide trend rather than just the Hanger Hill. Aggravated burglaries were particularly alarming as we had six last year compared to none in the previous years.”
Because Hanger Hill is one of the safer wards of the Ealing borough, she said rapid response units were elsewhere – and criminals had realised that.
Ms Turner said she couldn’t stress enough how good the Police Safer Neighbourhood Team officers were, but they were on foot, while the criminals were in cars, vans and scooters.
She said: “We need at least one additional officer, they need to have a car, or at least a base that is in the actual ward.”
Since the creation of a tri-borough police force, which incorporated Ealing, Hounslow and Hillingdon, Ms Turner says she felt the system hasn’t been working.
“We would prefer to revert back to the single borough policing.”
Ms Turner said Hanger Hill, and particularly the Haymills Estate, are targeted because of their proximity to the North Circular Road. Criminals can jump off the road, steal a car or rob a house, and jump straight back on for a quick getaway.
“Residents have consulted a private security and we have now canvassed every home in the whole of the Haymills Estate to consult the residents – should we get high enough take-up, the scheme will be implemented.”
She also encouraged all residents to sign up to the local OWL Watch website, to allow suspicious activity to be reported more quickly.
Local councillor Joy Morrissey said Haymills in particular needed high visibility police patrols. She said: “With the closure of our local police station, the officers have to walk all the way from Acton Police station to Hanger Hill Ward and then go all the way back to Acton to process any paperwork.”
Inspector Leigh Ballard, who is in charge of the Ealing Safer Neighbourhood Teams, said Hanger Hill is currently down one ward officer, leaving only one officer and a community support officer for the area. A second officer has been recruited and starts on June 3.
On the lack of transport, Inspector Ballard said neighbourhood officers have occasional use of general vehicles when required, and the use of bicycles. The ward base for Hanger Hill was situated on Hanger Lane and was closed at the beginning of this year.
Ballard said: “Along with the focussed patrols by ward officers, we have a dedicated proactive team who are working with and alongside adjoining boroughs and county forces to share intelligence and focus on specific areas.
Official police crime figures for Hanger Hill and the whole of Ealing do appear to be going up. In November, Hanger Hill saw the most reported offences in five years, with 110 that month. In the year to February there were 1,136 reported crimes in Hanger Hill, including 327 vehicle offences, 231 cases of violence against a person, 191 burglaries, 152 thefts and 81 cases of arson and criminal damage.
Hemai and Malimi have lived in their Haymills Estate house all their lives – almost 30 years – and remember a time when the door was always open and they were able to play in the street.
As the community Whats App group continues to flash warnings, the pair just hope their home can become the safe place it once was.
Another victim, who asked not to be named, had only lived in Hanger Hill a few weeks when burglaries forced their way through her baby’s playroom window. She bought a property in The Ridings in December, and said she was excited to move with her children aged five, three, and seven months.
She said: “For the last two months, the house had nobody living in it. And the moment I put curtains up, I got burgled.
“I had jewellery locked away in a secret cupboard and having double glazing and strong locks, I thought there’s no way people can break in.”
She was visiting the house with her baby and two friends not long after buying it when the burglary happened.
She remembers: “We found the window of the playroom wide open, completely broken, and my room with clothes on the floor and a little secret cupboard empty. I panicked.
“We called the police and they said someone will be back to us between 24 and 48 hours [later], which was ridiculous. They wanted me to have a broken window left open, which gave the burglars access if they wished to come back again. I felt violated, unsafe.”
She said police closed the case after questioning neighbours and she told them there was no CCTV.
She said: “Knowing [about] all these burglaries, some aggravated, it’s left me feeling more unsafe than ever.”
Ged Cann - Local Democracy Reporter
April 10, 2019