A Queensland mother-of-one has relived the terrifying moment masked intruders broke into her home and ransacked her bedroom while she lay there with her sleeping toddler.
For weeks Svitlana says crime in Cairns had been escalating. Just that day her friend’s house had been broken into. But the Bentley Park family had a plan.
“On Thursday all day I told my husband, because we already had security cameras, I bought them a few months ago but [they were] never installed, I told my husband, 'can you do it on the weekend?'" the 29-year-old told Yahoo News Australia. “He was like, 'oh, yeah I will do everything on the weekend'.”
Unfortunately it wasn’t soon enough for the young family. The mother and daughter were asleep together in bed when thieves broke into their Neales Street house in the early hours of Friday morning.
“At 2.18am I woke up because my daughter woke up, she was crying,” Svitlana said. “We went to the toilet and lay back down. Maybe five minutes on, I was sleeping, but not deeply, so I first saw the light under the door.”
While she initially thought that it was her husband, who was asleep in the room next door, her thoughts were soon dashed when the door opened “extremely quietly” and without its usual “click”.
A family’s worst nightmare
“A tall man approached the room, tall and skinny,” she said. “It was like, wow oh my gosh, I had thought about it all day and now it’s in my dream.”
But then a second man appeared and Svitlana realised that it wasn’t a nightmare.
While the first intruder headed straight through to the bathroom, where all of the mother’s jewellery was kept, the second male, who she described as “very short, like 150 centimetres,” walked into the room.
It was then that Svitlana’s daughter, Keira, started to whimper. Laying on her sheets naked, except for underwear, the mother shut her eyes and prayed that the two-year-old wouldn’t wake up.
As the second intruder walked around to the couple’s bedside table, Svitlana dared not move while her heart thudded in her chest.
“I was actually on the edge of the bed so he was like three to five centimetres from my head so I couldn't breathe,” she said. “But I understood that I needed to breathe because he was that close so he would understand that I was not asleep.”
After passing over Svitlana’s iPhone and iWatch, the suspect grabbed a number of books before both men left the room. Once they’d gone, Switlana “jumped up,” locked her bedroom door from the inside and called police from under a blanket in an attempt to muffle her voice.
Within two minutes, four officers had arrived at the property but the offenders were nowhere to be seen, along with the family’s Mitsubishi Outlander.
‘Why I didn’t scream’
Svitlana told Yahoo News Australia that police asked her why she didn’t scream as it probably would have caused the offenders to flee.
“Honestly I thought please, take whatever you want,” the 29-year-old mum said. “I don't care much about the stuff they took. [The] car is [covered by] insurance. The rest of the stuff we can buy a second time so that's fine. But the most important thing, especially when you have your two-year-old daughter next to you, [is your safety.]”
“I understood they were not scared that she was crying and they realised I could wake up at any second, not because of them, just because my daughter was crying, and they didn’t get scared.”
After learning that the family’s inflatable Santa, which formed part of their Christmas decorations outside, had been slashed with a knife, the mother-of-one was glad she had pretended to be asleep.
Thieves took items ‘they could wear’
While police found some bags and shoes strewn around the lawn, plenty of personal items were gone including keys to the house, the stolen vehicle and a second car in the garage, as well as a HP laptop, credit cards, IDs and Svitlana’s husband’s shoes, hat and $4,4000 watch.
After the intruders broke down two doors, one from outside into the garage and a second from the garage into the home, Svitlana says they “threw the cat outside as well”. Fortunately three days later the family’s beloved and indoor-only “fur girl” finally found her way home.
While strangely none of the mother’s jewellery was taken, she believes the thieves took items “they could wear” and left Apple electronics, such as a Macbook, iPhone and iWatch, because “you can monitor the location” on those devices.
Parents fight back against intruders
After posting about the incident on Facebook, Svitlana says she’s heard of at least three other robberies that occurred in her area that night, using her stolen car. Inside one home, four children had been asleep.
The next day, she and her husband both spotted the Mitsubishi Outlander in Bentley Park, and decided to take matters into their own hands.
“My husband blocked them from the front and I blocked them from the side and on the back with the ute [a work vehicle] and they still found a way to get away,” she said. “It was a very experienced driver.”
Queensland police say the stolen vehicle was found abandoned the following day and investigations led to the arrest of a 15 and 16-year-old girl. Officers are still appealing for information into the break in and are urging anyone with information to contact them.
Svitlana's family has since had security cameras, as well as an alarm, installed and are considering getting a dog.
“Apart from the financial loss, and this situation, I can’t sleep,” Svitlana said. “Now I’m sleeping with a steak knife and fork next to me.”
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