‘Completely inhospitable’: Saanich senior says her home was broken into 6 times while she was in hospital

'Completely inhospitable': Saanich senior says her home was broken into 6 times while she was in hospital
Saanich's Anne Tolmie is pictured inside her home following a series of break-ins, Monday, May 27, 2024.

A Saanich senior was shocked to arrive home after an extended hospital stay to find the interior had been ransacked and robbed, in what’s believed to be six break-ins.

Anne Tolmie, 78, says antique furniture, mirrors, pictures, even the copper pipes, “things that are part of the household,” were stolen from her home on Blenkinsop Road while she was in hospital coming off a months-long battle with pneumonia. 

“Things you wouldn’t think they would bother with,” she said.

Tolmie tells CHEK News she first discovered her home had been broken into on Monday, May 20, before things turned to “chaos” over the span of about a week.

“The most shocking thing to me is the fact that it’s happened five days in a row, and then a one-day hiatus, and then it started again on the weekend,” she said in the Monday, May 27 interview, standing in the house that’s now a big mess.

Picking up the pieces

After the first break-in, the damage was minimal, but things had escalated by the time Tolmie returned the next day. “It wasn’t just a case that they looked, it was a case that they cleared it all out. Then things began to disappear day to day.”

Tolmie explains that other belongings, including priceless heirlooms, were moved from one room to another or even brought outside and discarded in unusual places.

“I found my grandfather’s graduation certificate, which was carefully put in a drawer in my mom’s bedroom where nobody would ever find it, sitting on the windshield of my car,” she said. “So that was kind of shocking.”

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(Tolmie says antique china is missing from this cabinet.)

Soon after, Tolmie sought help from authorities and neighbours.

“She’d come to the vegetable stand, and she was relaying it to me,” said Dave Chambers, who runs nearby Madrona Farm. “She seemed a bit apprehensive about going back to her house, and I offered about three times to bring her back…We came back, and sure enough, the house had been broken into.”

“I don’t know if that was the second, third, fourth time,” he said.

“That’s when we discovered all of the copper pipes had been cut out of the basement, and the hot water tank pipes had been cut.”

So, neighbours banded together to help Tolmie clean up. But when they arrived at her house this past Saturday, they discovered it had been broken into, again.

“We came in and the doors were open again and the window was smashed. I waited for Anne to get here 10 minutes later, and sure enough, she confirmed that another break-in had happened,” said Chambers.

Police are aware and investigating.

“The Saanich Police have open files into this matter and officers are actively investigating the circumstances,” said Insp. Damian Kowalewich. Tolmie says officers found cigarette butts, a beer can and even a burglar’s pry bar.

“(Police) weren’t impressed at all the first few days and they finally realized that something really was going on and began to do something about it,” she said.

‘It’s really sad,’ says Chambers

Tolmie’s not sure what prompted the break-ins, but her home had been vacant for a while, and those responsible may have clued in after noticing the lights were constantly off and the curtains were never drawn.

“The place was deserted,” she said.

She’s been in hospital since late February but was recently given a day pass, which allows her to visit home. Now she’s stuck sleeping in the hospital until she finds other accommodations or her house is back to livable conditions.

“We’re going to try and put me in safe, solid accommodation. They wanted to put me in a care home, which is not necessary at this stage, but they felt it was a more acceptable environment for me,” she said.

“I think the goal now is to get a care plan in order for Anne so she can come back to something that’s safe for her to live in, and to salvage all of her things that are special and the things that are left of her life,” added Chambers.

“So those things are safe, and she’s safe.”

(The bathroom sink was ripped off the wall.)

According to Chambers, police are ramping up their presence in the area. “There are a lot of neighbours here and a lot of people who really care about Anne, so eyes are on the property now from many angles.”

He describes Tolmie as “witty” and “on the ball” and says she’s “got many years left to live, and she wants to come back to her property.”

Neighbours plan to set up a GoFundMe to help her pay for any expenses incurred due to the break-ins and the clean-up, which is “going to take time,” said Chambers. “…her house completely inhospitable. It’s really sad.”

Tolmie’s been in touch with her lawyer and adds that she’s talking with them on Tuesday “to see what can be done.”

She says she’s grateful for her neighbours’ help.

“I guess, like always, when bad things happen, it really brings the community together. And that’s what community is,” said Chambers.

“They’re incredible. Dave came back with me and when he saw the place and the mess, he was quite incredulous. So he got the police and we went on from there. It’s really an incredible situation,” added Tolmie.

“There has to be some law and order.”


Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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