A Nanaimo family returned home from a three-week vacation to a nightmare.
For the past three weeks, Allison Greenway, her husband and their four children spent the past three weeks in the Yukon, visiting family.
“We took the kids back to their homelands to visit the family,” recalled Greenway. “We caught our first fish, the kids got to go camping, they got to visit their great-grandma from across the road.”
But when the family returned home to Nanaimo Sunday afternoon, happy memories were quickly replaced with nightmares. As they approached their home they saw their windows had been boarded up and their children’s toys were hanging in trees on the property.
“Nothing was where we left it,” recalled Greenway. “The windows were all boarded up and he had torn up all our blankets and curtains to cover everything. A lot of the kids’ toys were buried in the yard and hanging from the trees. It was really unsettling.”
It turns out someone had not only broken into their Nicol Street home but lived in it while they were on vacation. The entire house was in total disarray, electronics and a gold watch were stolen, and unusual items were destroyed.
“Silly things, like they ripped the voicebox out of their build-a-bears, they tore our marriage certificate in two, they had taken all our family photos off the wall and placed them down . . . it is just so uncomfortable,” said Greenway.
For the rest of the day, friends, family and acquaintances, came over and helped clean the house.
Greenway said they decided to spend Sunday evening at a nearby hotel and had left their home by 3:30 p.m. that afternoon. She said her husband decided to return to check on the home at 8:30 p.m. and discovered someone was inside.
“He noticed that someone had already started boarding up the windows again and they moved the microwave into the living room,” Greenway said. “We were just there. We had cleaned all of it.”
Her husband immediately called Nanaimo RCMP.
“When the constable arrived they could see the bathroom light on and someone walking around in the house,” she said.
The Nanaimo RCMP’s next move was swift. More than a dozen squad cars descended on the home, a police dog was brought in and officers ended up knocking the front door down.
“They ended up pulling this guy out of our kid’s closest. How am I going to make that better for them?” recalled Greenway.
“I mean it was bad enough the first day when we had come home and find like 10 years of our lives just ruined but he was in our kids’ beds, like who does that?” she added.
Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien told CHEK the suspect arrested inside the home is not only known to police but has a history of violence.
“He has a propensity for violence and is known to carry weapons,” he said.
The male suspect has not been identified publicly because charges have not been approved by Crown prosecutors. O’Brien said the suspect was taken to hospital after he was arrested and remains in custody.
“A male was taken into custody. He received a few bite wounds and is presently in the hospital,” said O’Brien. “He has also been remanded into custody for several days.”
The man is facing at least one charge of break-and-enter and others could be filed.
O’Brien said it is important for neighbours to keep an eye on their neighbour’s property, particularly when someone is on vacation and they see activity that could be considered uncharacteristic or suspicious.
“The best security is having neighbours looking after your home,” he said. “That is the best. Security systems can be breached.”
Despite the suspect’s history of violence, O’Brien said police don’t believe there is any further safety risk to the family.
However, Greenway said she’s terrified and overwhelmed.
“I don’t want him to be near us. I don’t want him to get out for a duration of time,” she said. “Twice in one week is too much. He seemed really dangerous and I am so uncomfortable.”
Greenway said the family had no idea anything was wrong with their home while they were away except for an unusual phone call from a shipping company wondering why the family had moved.
“I had to tell them that we didn’t,” she explained. “At the time I didn’t know that they had spoken to someone in my house. I just assumed the neighbours thought we had left because our vacation was so long.”
With their sense of security now shattered, the Nanaimo family isn’t taking any chances and will be installing a security system as well as improving the fence around their home.
“It’s awful,” said Greenway.
The family friend has set up a gofundme for the family who has been tenants at the home for three-and-a-half years.