When I sat down to start my stint of volunteering for EBF Friday, little did I know that I would still be sitting there 15 hours later, still trying to write a post.
Thursday, 18th June, 2015, a man dressed in a burka was arrested and a package that he had allegedly left in a doorway was safely detonated by a bomb squad. Well, of course, they SAY it was a burka but the photographs show that it was not a burka but a niqab.
In fact, there have been NO crimes committed wearing a burka in the UK, some have been committed wearing a niqab but, as the word ‘burka’ is commonly incorrectly used to describe the niqab and it is the burka which Biffers want banned, I will use the word ‘burka’ in place of niqab.
There are still very few details about what happened yesterday. We don’t know anything about the man or whether or not there was an explosive device in the bag he allegedly left. What we do know is that our police and armed forces collaborated quickly and calmly to evacuate the area, seal off Watford to ensure everyone’s safety and that the man was arrested. And, yes, he was wearing a ‘burka’.
Not surprisingly the incident started a foam fest over on Britain First and now it seems that ‘burkas must be banned’ and ‘all Muslims must die’ once again – because of the alleged actions of this one man, despite not yet knowing what he did or whether the bag which was detonated contained explosives.
So I thought I would have a look around to see if we really need to be so anxious about women wearing burkas, because ‘it could be anyone in there’ and therefore burkas are a security risk.
I didn’t anticipate that this would be an easy task and I was right.
I started out by looking at press reports of crimes committed while wearing a ‘burka’ and I found 21, dating between 2002 – 2014. Nine jewellers had been robbed, one travel agent, one Post Office, two banks, one Securicor van and one phone shop.
There was one case of embezzlement by a woman who normally wore a hijab, changing into a ‘burka’ to carry out her crime, and there were four assaults. One assault was committed by a woman who ALWAYS wore a ‘burka’ and didn’t don it for the purpose of the assault, and one case involved pickpockets in ‘burkas’ targeting the very wealthy.
Robbery seemed to be the most common crime committed in a ‘burka’. That being the case, I thought I’d have a look and see how many robberies occur in total to work out a percentage of ‘burka’ wearing robbers. I found figures for April 2015 at http://www.ukcrimestats.com which show that there had been 4,104 total cases of robbery UK wide.
I then looked through the press for robberies committed wearing other disguises and, of course, there were a variety, including mask variations from Scream to monkeys and skeletons and even one man with underpants on his head (no, it wasn’t Paul Golding at the Cenotaph this time). And I found 19 reports of robberies where disguises were used between 2009 – 2015.
However, only using the press to research the subject seemed unscientific so I decided to go to http://www.thelawpages.com to investigate the results of court cases in England and Wales. I searched for ‘robbery’ (the most reported crime) between 2008-2014.
There were 1209 cases – but how to narrow this down to see how many ‘foreigners’ were committing crimes – Biffers are always telling us that it’s the immigrants who commit the crimes (I’ll get back to the ‘burka’ in a bit).
Since the Law Pages don’t record people’s religion or skin colour, it was going to be quite difficult to ascertain how many ‘Johnny Foreigners’ had been convicted of robberies. I did what I suspect lots of people do, not just Biffers, I looked at people’s names and put them into categories according to their name. I must stress that I know this is far from ideal but I needed detail, not simply numbers. There is something to be gleaned from estimating nationality of origin from people’s names, although we don’t know if everyone called, say, ‘Stavros Popoupolis’ is a Greek immigrant, is second, third or fourth (or more) generation Greek or if he is not Greek at all, but it’s my best guess that he’s not French.
Of the 1209 convictions for robbery between 2008 and 2014, origins or backgrounds of names suggested that 91 seemed likely to be Asian, 10 likely to be Sikh, 31 likely to be East European, 39 African, two Jewish and six ‘other’, Far Eastern, for example. Of course, as I stated earlier, they could all be British, although one was known to be an asylum seeker who was given a jail term followed by a deportation order.
So, out of 1209 convictions, we have POTENTIALLY 179 foreign born people convicted of robbery in a six year period. That means that 1,118 convictions were for people called Murphy, McCloed, Bowman, Smith, Jones, Knight, Tyler, Grant and….Curtin.
I was quite interested in Curtin, because he had worn a ‘burka’ to commit a jewellry theft from Selfridges in London in 2012, with his accomplice Connor Groake (which sounds a bit Irish).
So now I had 179 names I could take back to the press reports to see how many of the POTENTIALLY foreign born people who had been convicted of robbery had worn ‘burkas’ when committing their crime.
I found reports about some of the convicted ‘burka’ wearing robbers in the press.
I found that a jeweller in Burnley had been robbed by four MEN wearing ‘burkas’, Rais Atcha, Fahim Kola, Mohammed Asif Khan and Baber Khan, the phone shop in London had been robbed by Mohammed Sabek and Aneek Khan, dressed in ‘burkas’ and the robbery from Selfridges had been committed by Sam Curtin and Connor Groake, wearing ‘burkas’.
As for the crimes I found in my initial press sweep this morning, matching them up with my Law Pages search, three out of the nine jewellry store robberies achieved convictions, and the robbers of the phone shop were caught, as was the embezzler mentioned at the beginning.
So, there are some thieves out there who use ‘burkas’ as disguises to commit robberies. There are also three people who used Scream masks, one man in a green/yellow mask, and one in a pig mask.
What do I get out of all this at the end of the day? What I can say is that if you’re a robber, wearing a ‘burka’ seems to be on a list of potential disguises. It’s not top pick though. The majority of the cases on the Law Pages chose balaclavas and ski masks, some chose leggings, some chose hoods and scarves. Wearing a ‘burka’ is down the list and doesn’t seem to have any greater a ‘success’ rate than other disguises.
I’ve also learned that I never want to own a jewellers shop and there are some VERY nasty people out there. Most of them are not wearing ‘burkas’.