The spirit of Christmas

christmascheerI was based at Cowley police station in the run-up to Christmas one year. In the early hours of one morning during the week before Christmas, together with other officers I attended a burglar alarm at a garage in the Cowley Road. The glass panes in the front door of the garage were smashed. On checking the building, we saw that a display of toys in the main shop area had been rifled and a number of items had obviously been removed. We looked closely at the damage to the front door and saw that whoever had broken the glass had been cut in the process and that there was a trail of blood leading onto Blackbird Leys. We followed the trail and it led to the front door of a house in a nearby street. I knocked at the door, having sent two of my officers to cover the rear, and waited. The door was opened by a man in tee shirt and shorts with football socks covering his legs. He was very intoxicated but not aggressive. I explained why we were there and as we talked one of my officers noticed that there was blood seeping through one of his socks.

He invited us in and after a quick search we recovered the stolen items hidden in the airing cupboard. As we talked to the man we saw two children lying under covers on the sofa. They were fast asleep, and we did not disturb them. The man was a single parent and was going to have to come with us to the police station after a visit to the hospital to check on his injuries. The children obviously needed to be taken care of. They had not stirred during the whole time we were in the house. A very kind neighbour offered to take care of them and we left them with her.

Later that night, after we had completed the necessary paperwork and ensured that the injuries to the man had been treated, he returned to his home. It was at that point that we began to discuss the plight of the two children. The house, although clean, was devoid of a great many things. The father had a serious drink problem which needed professional help and support. We thought of the two children and what they had to face on a daily basis.

Christmas Day was just two days away; what sort of Christmas would they have? It was then that the idea took root – we could try to give them a Christmas to remember. Our own families would be having a great time with presents etc. My Shift collected cash that night and the next day presents were purchased for the children. We had to be careful regarding the type of present as we had only seen the tops of two heads under the covers on the sofa.

Later that day when we returned to duty my first task of the night was to return to the house with my Sergeant armed with the presents. The front door was answered by the father and he was very surprised to see us. He was also sober and invited us into the lounge. He then introduced us to his children. They were two delightful little boys. We explained why we were there and handed over our gifts wishing them a very happy Christmas. The smiles on their two faces was all we needed to know that we had made the right choice. As we turned to leave the father hugged both of us and wished us a Merry Christmas. I can certainly say that we both left Blackbird Leys that night with a spring in our step and some moisture in our eyes, not from the cold I can assure you.

Richard Smith

December 2018 – January 2019