Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Desperate Measures

The bizarre news story of the day comes from a family that robbed businesses to pay off gambling debts.

It's a sad story where a scavenger mother and her two adult children were arrested after robbing a goldsmith's and a guesthouse.

The 53-year-old mother made money by collecting waste paper and cardboard, while her 21-year-old son racked up HK$200,000 ($25,780) in debts from gambling on horse races and soccer matches. They were arrested Monday, while the 26-year-old daughter was arrested last Friday.

According to news reports, the father had died of cancer and so it seems there are some family and financial issues that have been simmering for a while.

The trio allegedly stole cash and jewellery valued at HK$34,000 and the mother and son were apparently trying to rob passers-by when they were picked up by police on in North Point about 7.30pm Monday.

Police seized a folding knife, a paper cutter and a bag of plastic cords from the son.

They had been sleeping in parks and shelters because they were afraid to go home and no one would take them in, police said.

A senior police officer explained two teams of detectives from the Eastern district crime squad worked around the clock for three days over the weekend to track them down.

"Our officers had to lie in wait in locations where the two suspects might show up and interviewed all the relatives and friends they might contact," he said.

The trio apparently posed as customers to snatch two gold necklaces worth about HK$30,000 from a goldsmith's shop in North Point before escaping on July 31.

Then they were alleged to have robbed a guesthouse of HK$4,000 also in North Point. They tied up the attendant, 57, at knife point.

The son and daughter are also suspected to have tried to steal money from a cash register at a convenience store in Sai Wan Ho on July 28 and police are trying to find if there are connections with other recent crimes.

As most of the alleged crimes occurred in North Point and Sai Wan Ho, the trio was very random in picking their targets and didn't think to be even more random geographically.

The saddest part is that the mother is said to have used up all her savings to pay off her son's previous debts.

While it's understandable the mother wants to help her son clear his debts, was wiping out all her money the smartest thing to do?

And who came up with the idea of resorting to robbery? Why get the entire family involved?

It's sad and pathetic, and reveals the lack of morals in this family. Their desperation has probably caused them to think of no other solution except to steal from others.

The eventual court case will be interesting to hear, particularly their testimonials. Are there more families in Hong Kong in the same position?

Now I know why RTHK has done a series of television programs dramatizing the impact gambling has on individuals and their families.

It's a bigger and more wide-spread problem than we think.

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