‘Grateful’ South Surrey assault victim feeling stronger every day

South Surrey assault suspect still at large as police investigate 'several' tips received following release of security-footage images.

As police continue to search for the man who brutally assaulted a South Surrey senior in her home last week, the victim and her husband have reached out to thank those who helped her in the aftermath.

“The people in the neighbourhood were awesome, as were all of the police officers and firemen and paramedics and hospital staff and doctors and nurses at Surrey Memorial Hospital. I feel stronger every day because of them and my husband and family,” the 70-year-old told Peace Arch News by email Sunday.

Police on-sceneThe woman was assaulted around noon on Aug. 12, when a man entered her home in the 16700-block of 28 Avenue, brandished a weapon and restrained her. When she couldn’t comply with the intruder’s demands for cash and other items, she was attacked, suffering what police described as “significant” injuries.

RCMP issued a safety warning to the community, and on Thursday, released a description and security-footage images of a suspect sought in connection with the disturbing crime.

The images – of a man wearing a baseball cap, grey T-shirt and sunglasses – were captured around 2 p.m. the day of the attack, at an RBC bank machine at 20059 40 Ave. in Langley.

He is described as 20 to 30 years old, five-foot-10 to six feet tall, with a medium build and no visible marks, scars or tattoos. He is believed to be Caucasian, and, at the time of the offence, had shoulder-length, light-coloured hair that may not have been real.

He spoke without any distinguishable accent, the victim told police.

Police confirmed to PAN that the bank card used at the machine did not belong to the suspect, but would not confirm if it was stolen.

Cpl. Scotty Schumann said Monday that “several” tips have been received as a result of the released photos, however, none have led to the suspect’s identity.

As unsettling as the incident was, the woman’s husband told PAN Monday that the couple – married 51 years this month – are intent on getting through it.

“We’re doing the best we can and we’re determined to see this thing through and not let it change our lives,” he said.

He added they are also taking steps to increase their home’s security – steps they’ve never felt they needed in eight years of living at the home.

“I guess we got a little bit too complacent,” he said. “When we first moved here, we didn’t even bother locking doors.

“We weren’t protecting ourselves like we should have. Now… the gate’s closed continuously.”

And while the victim and her husband have no complaints with how police have handled their case, describing their response at the time and in the days since as “absolutely fantastic,” others who contacted PAN in the wake of it criticized the Mounties for not taking previous break-and-enter reports seriously enough.

Kyle Nielson said Thursday that an officer with Surrey’s serious-crimes unit told her that repeated false alarms at her home – in the same neighbourhood as last week’s break-in – impacted how seriously the reports were taken.

Rina Vitulli described the attack as “the consequence of police inactions and it’s more frequent than they care to admit.”

Vitulli said she was home last December when two people broke into her house. She called 911, gave descriptions of the individuals and their truck, and police arrived 90 minutes later, “only to give me a report for the insurance claim.”

Schumann said police respond to calls based on the emergency, “and this may delay attendance to a report of a B&E not in progress.”

Noting the detachment fielded 386,000 calls for service last year, Schumann said police do attend every reported break-and-enter. The incidence is tracked by crime analysts, enabling police to focus their attention on hot spots.

“I’ve never met an officer who didn’t take a B&E seriously,” Schumann said by email. “Someone getting into your home is no joke.”

Gary Cameron, a Block Watch captain in the area, agreed police are doing the best they can with the resources they have. And while it’s easy to blame police for the problem, he said it falls first on those perpetrating the crimes.

Noting the number of residential break-and-enters in South Surrey were “horrendously up” in 2014, Cameron said residents need to take their own role in addressing the problem just as seriously, by reporting all suspicious activity to police.

He hopes an initiative of the Grandview Heights Stewardship Association – in which magnets encouraging people to call the police non-emergency number if they see questionable individuals or activity are to be distributed – will help.

“Call in when you see something,” he said.

 

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