Friday, 18 December 2009

TRAVEL SAFETY - Mugging and knife attack -

Last night we went to stay with a Couchsurfing host in Valpariaso.  We'd been with him just a couple of hours when we decided to go out to get some food.  Two blocks away were small stores at Plaza Waddington.  Having made our purchases we took the usual precautions, in the shop I put my purse away and my bag diagonally across my shoulders clutched under my armpit.  I had the groceries in my other hand.

The moment we stepped out onto the pavement I felt something bump me and the bag being dragged away.  I tried to hang on but couldn't and turned round to see a youth running off with it. Steve, just ahead of me, turned and saw what had happened.  Now I know you are not supposed to do this but gut instinct takes over and we both gave chase.   

I noticed the youth had a knife and alerted Steve who was ahead of me.  A person in the park tried to cut off the escapee but was threatened with the knife and backed off.  We continued the pursuit up the hill losing ground.  The lad took a left turning and we thought that was it.  Steve followed and found himself in a dead end street where he found the thief hiding behind a car.  With no further thought he dragged him out and tried to wrestle him to the ground whilst avoiding the knife.  When I turned the corner Steve was just gaining control holding the youth down with another man stepping in to help.  I raced up and stamped on the youths hand and we managed to get the knife away but not before Steve had been cut a number of times.  Another man came up the street shouting and went up to the youth and kicked him in the face.

My handbag was retrieved from under the car with contents intact and just the strap broken.  Local people were very kind to us until the police arrived.  Luckily policeman Miguel spoke reasonable English.

We were taken to the hospital where Steve sat down as he felt light headed.  Whilst Miguel was checking him in Steve sat up, started to mumble and then his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell backwards unconcious.  I screamed for help and people came and dragged Steve on his knees into the emergency room.  Once on a trolley he came too.  He needed stitches to a mid level deep wound in his hand and a minor gash in front of his ear whilst the rest of the wounds were surface.

The attacker was with us in the hospital and an x-ray showed his broken nose.  I hastened to assure the officer that we had not done this.  We were all taken to the Police station to sign statements and returned to our host quite shaken.  This morning we had to go to court to make a video recorded statement of what happened.  We had an interpreter with us at all times.  The boy and his family were all there and it was not a nice experience.  After we had been questioned and left the room the boys sister came to us to apologise for what had happened.  It turns out the boy comes from a very good family and his father even works for the judge. 

Apart from the attacker everyone was very kind and helpful, we did not have to pay anything for the hospital treatment and the police picked us up and took us everywhere. 
Things could have ended very differently and whilst Steve is being seen as a bit of a hero and very valiant we think we were rather foolish in our actions. 


If visiting Valparaiso try to leave anything of value somewhere safe and use a bum bag (fanny pack) or money belt.

1 comment:

Bystander said...

I am sorry about your negative experience. Yes, you were probably foolish to give chase because the boy might not have been alone but you saved a lot of hassle replacing things. If it was his first arrest or if he was under 18 he will have been released almost immediately. But he will still have a crooked nose!I think the man who did that had previously been a victim.