AN elderly couple have told of their terrifying ordeal at the hands of masked raiders who tied them up and threatened to cut off their hands unless they handed over cash and jewellery.
Harry Carrick and Sylvia Everett were watching television in their living room on Saturday evening when just after 6pm three men wearing balaclavas burst into their home in Laburnum Grove, Cleadon, South Tyneside.
The masked men rammed pillowcases over their heads before binding their arms and pushing them to the floor.
Frail Mr Carrick, 78, who suffers from asthma and had only been out of hospital two days after undergoing treatment for a serious chest infection, was left with painful bruising from the attack.
Now as detectives appeal for information to help capture the three men, the great-grandparents have spoken out in the hope people will come forward with information.
“I was sitting doing the crossword and Harry was eating some ginger snaps with his coffee and watching television when these three thugs with balaclavas and pillowcases in their hands came running in the house. I thought it was some kind of joke,” said Sylvia, 75.
“They shouted at me to ‘shut my mouth’ and used the most foul language. They yanked the jewellery off my neck. I pleaded for them to at least leave my locket that I’ve worn for 20 years, but they shouted at me to shut up or they would ‘kick my head in’. They shoved the pillowcases over our heads and tied my hands and feet, it was really tight and cutting into my wrists.
“I shouted for them to leave Harry alone, I said: ‘he’s just come out of hospital, he won’t be able to breathe, you’re going to murder him’.
“Then they told Harry if he didn’t get the key to the safe they’d cut my fingers off.
“They kept us there for about an hour while they went through the whole house. At one point I could hear the sound of a bag being unzipped. I thought they were going to put our bodies in it. I thought we were going to die.”
Harry, a retired railways worker, said: “They dragged me about by the hair and the language they were using towards Sylvia was appalling. I had to tell them where the safe was, they said they were going to cut her fingers off and I believe they would have done.
“I feel like moving away from here, but Sylvia loves this bungalow and I’m not going to let them get the better of me.”
When the robbers finally fled, Harry was able to wriggle his hands free and the couple dialled 999.
The police were on the scene within minutes, swamping the area with officers and using police dogs to try to catch the men’s trail.
The couple, who met on a cruise after the deaths of their previous spouses, moved into the street 20 years ago, where houses sell for up to three quarters of a million pounds.
Within weeks they had been targeted by thieves, who used glass-cutting equipment to remove a section of a window and sneak in without the couple realising, taking almost all of Sylvia’s jewellery and family heirlooms.
They were also broken into at the end of November last year, but were out at the time and believe the alarm caused the thieves to flee empty-handed.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “At 7.40pm on Saturday police received a report of a burglary at a home on Laburnum Grove in Cleadon Village.
“An elderly couple had been tied up and threatened during the burglary when three men forced their way into the couple’s home. The couple were checked over by paramedics but did not require hospital treatment.
“A large amount of cash and jewellery was taken and a police investigation is under way to trace the offenders.”
Acting Inspector Nick Gjorven of Northumbria Police South Tyneside Area Command added: “This was a distressing incident for the occupants and we’re carrying out inquiries to find those responsible. We have a number of officers on patrol in the local area to reassure residents and if anyone has any information I’d urge them to contact us.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact officers on 101.