Investigating a Robbery

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
And we thought traveller's cheques were a safe bet!

Submitted: March 02, 2017

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Submitted: March 02, 2017



We lived out of our suitcases for two years at Sanawari because there was simply no furniture supplied in our house. We had been careful not to take anything of value with us but we supposed we would need a certain amount of ready cash, so we invested in traveller’s cheques. We presumed them to be a safe bet. We kept our traveller’s cheques in their special envelope tucked away in Mag’s suitcase, we thought security was not such an issue because cashing them required another signature and a passport. Our passports were kept in the Agency’s safe.

One day Mags noticed that there was a thousand US dollars’ worth of traveler’s cheques missing! A significant loss like that warranted some swift action! We rushed to the Agency office in town to phone our bank in NZ using the super-duper emergency number. They told me that of the eleven cheques stolen, five were not yet cashed, so they were stopped them there and then.

The bank and insurance company asked us to get a police report, which was time-consuming and a convoluted story on its own. Anyway. We had to question access into our house. We had a normal wooden door with a normal lock, plus a padlocked snib, neither of which were damaged. From time to time our house was a bit like a hotel with other volunteers staying over and the only access to the toilet was through our bedroom where the suitcases sat.

To try to get to the bottom of the mystery, we sent a fax via our bank to Thomas Cook who issued the cheques, to ask for copies of the cashed ones, which would give us an idea of where they were cashed and what the second signature looked like,. We wanted to catch the culprit or at least rule out others. Out heel couldn’t be cooled, so we went into town to visit all the Bureau de Change places to see if they had cashed any Thomas Cook cheques. Not surprisingly we brew a blank.

A few days later, the photocopies arrived at the Agency office. Mo wanted to come with me to watch progress and, I think, to keep guard. Our first stop was at the Stanbic Bank. We were ushered straight in to see the manager, and we explained or reason for calling. He was cooperative and we showed him the cheques, - each showed the account number the funds were credited to. He told us the account was for Pelican Safaris and he rang owner for us to set up an appointment. He seemed genuinely excited about our chase and his cheeky phone call!

Pelican Safaris was in the AICC building and the owner told us a woman who worked in the Bureau de Change in the Impala Hotel gave his wife the cheques. Yes, you would think that to be dodgy – we did! The woman at the Impala Hotel told us that she did not know who the staff member was who had accepted the cheques. She claimed not to have been on duty and had no clue who it was. We were sure their duty roster would have revealed who accepted the cheques. But it wasn’t filled in.

Two days later another faxed cheque arrived, it had not been paid out, cashed at the Mt. Meru Hotel (Novatel) though not honoured by the bank. The cashier there looked at the cheque, but would not say who had accepted the cheque! He too knew the roster, but he found the cheque was logged in their cashbook, but with no signature of the person cashing it. When told him the hotel had lost two hundred US dollars, were they not interested in getting it back! He just shrugged his shoulders. But he did claim he remembered the Peugeot ART 340 because the passenger was not a tourist. He was a young man, a tall African. The story didn’t quite gel and anyway, how did he see from his pokey office?

I asked some of the taxi drivers and the car described was usually parked at Hotel 77, so off we went, but we could not see a number plate, ART 340. Eventually by asking around we found him at his house. He was happy to see us because he expected some business but his English suddenly deserted him when we asked him about taking the tall man to Mt. Meru hotel. I told him his lack of English was no problem, we could use Swahili. He was nervous but described a young man from Sanawari. I had suspicions about Baraka from what the man at Mt Meru Hotel had said!

Baraka was the oldest son of my boss, Emanuel! We all lived in the same, partitioned-off house. I remembered about the wheel stolen from my Maruti and that the brick used to hold up the hub came from the sheds at the back of the house. I even found the outline of where it had sat!

The next day, Saturday, I happened to walk past Emanuel’s bar, midway up the Sanawari road and who was sitting there drinking with him? None other than the guy from Pelican Safaris! I confronted Emanuel at our Monday work meeting, saying that I saw him drinking with the guy who cashed my stolen traveler’s cheques! Even Africans can pale, and that’s what Emanuel did! When he recovered enough to speak, he promised to set up a meeting with Metele. Sure enough we did meet and there was a promise of recompense. Which didn’t happen!

We recalled the opportunity. We had allowed Baraka and his mate to stay in our house while we attended a conference. It was his Baraka’s idea, as a ‘security’ measure! The dirty buggers even slept in our bed without even washing their dusty feet! We weren’t silly enough to leave the cheques while we were away, but for sure they copied the keys!

We can’t be sure just when Baraka took the cheques but we figured Emanuel had to in on it. Baraka’s Aunt, Emanuel’s sister-in-law worked in the office at the Impala Hotel. It all fell into place when we found out years later that Baraka had impregnated a young girl and he urgently needed money. Exactly what the family knew remains unclear.

I was happy in the knowledge that they knew I knew, a court battle would have been impossible to fight! After an initial refusal, and a terse letter, Thomas Cook refunded the money and added one hundred US dollars to compensate for that refusal. The outcome was good because we hadn’t lost any money and suspicion could not fall on others who were always welcome in our house.



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