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Theft #1
by Jilliana Ranicar-Breese

The first time I went to The York Minster known as 'The French' in Dean Street, Soho, was with Seema Malian Ariel, the Canadian friend I had gone to Spain with, hitching through France and thence into Spain at the Basque border in a private French ambulance with the siren on!

We were not out to pick up men but 2 guys began to chat us up as we must have stood out not being regulars. One introduced himself as BB - Brian the burglar and the other a sculptor. BB then wanted to accompany us back to my Lancaster Gate flat but had no car. He inveigled his shortish older friend at the bar, a bloke with a navy Greek sailor's cap and side burns who was propping up the bar drinking a quarter bottle of champagne, to drive us.  The man was rude, abrupt and disinterested. His name was Maurice Sumray from the East End of London and an artist. But Maurice had a car so we piled in and I sat next to him in the front. The other bloke vanished and BB turned his attention to voluptuous large breasted mini skirted Seema.

Somehow it transpired Seema's Israeli lover Akiva, turned out to be Maurice's property partner. How that came up God only knows but it broke the ice so us Fab Four went back to my place for coffee with Maurice appearing to be less grumpy and more sociable.

I lived at 19 Craven Hill, London W2 in a yellow painted traditional flat owned by an elderly lady architect who had lived in Paris. She lived on the first floor and I on the second up a private flight of steep stairs. Once in my flat, as I was making coffee, BB commented that my Yale lock was easy to bust and suggested there and then knocking nails in so that a burglar could not slide a credit card down between the door post and the lock to get in! Bang bang! My landlady rushed upstairs to complain about the noise as it was after 11.00 pm. Was BB trying to help me or help himself?

Our friendship flourished and Maurice Sumray, a known Soho character, became my close friend until I went to South America in 1970 and he befriended my best friend Helga who took over my flat.

Not long after the coffee encounter, Seema phoned in tears to tell me her flat in Swiss Cottage had been burgled and her gramophone and TV gone. Not long after that episode, I ran into BB on a Sunday at the Hampstead art fair and he commented on my camera.

I shared my lovely flat with Helga who at the time was working at night for Reuters as a journalist after her job finished at France Soir. I had a guest that Monday evening and did not go into my bedroom after working at Global Tours on Oxford Street, to remove my jacket as per normal, instead I joined my guest in the lounge. After she had left, when I went to my bedroom, I found it had been ransacked as had Helga's. All her drawers had been pulled out and her camera stolen.

My camera had gone too but tragically an inherited square engraved silver snuff box cum locket on a silver chain given to my mother by her brother Lewis when he returned from North Africa in WW1. A treasured heirloom. Gone. Stolen! Worst, was a gold, diamond and emerald little finger ring given to my mother on her 18th birthday. The box was still there with the note in my mother's handwriting that she had given it to me on my 18th. Gone. Stolen! My record player had gone and two decorative ethnic wooden masks off my wall of no value whatsoever.

I immediately suspected BB. Brian Law of Muswell Hill, Maurice's friend and neighbour. I called Maurice and told him BB had 'done me'. He commented BB did not burgle his friends! I rang the police. Because I gave the name and the area of where he lived, the officer laughingly asked me if I had had a row with my boyfriend! Maurice rang back to say he had spoken to BB who swore he had not done the job!

I spoke to my landlady as the theft had happened the one week her housekeeper had gone on holiday. She told me a young man had somehow got into the building and knocked on her door asking for me by name to which she replied I was at work. He said he would check anyway and ran up the stairs to my flat 'like a cat!' She described him as tall and medium build but 'light' on his feet.

Sometime later my new flat mate comrade Liver Bird Patsy Barnes-Ward, ex wife of the journalist Chris Ward, told me that she had kept in touch with a fellow Liverpudlian Gess Whitfield, a dancer but who had become a professional burglar! Could he have been my 'cat' burglar?

Years later BB, out of prison after 5 years for robbing a post office, came up to me in 'The French' one evening, accosting me saying, 'I didn't do it, Jilly, honest!'

So now I wonder who 'did' me!!!

Written at my flat in Brighton 29.11.17.