On November 1st, I received the following email from Sister Clare:
Just so you don’t worry if I’m not as present for a day or two. I was robbed today coming out of the bank-lost the rent and heat money, $700, no way to reclaim it. So I’m very low and working on snapping out of it. Ha Ha
I was shocked and confused – shocked that she would be robbed. Confused because it seemed a strange way to tell me – almost as an after-thought. If I had been robbed, I would have blurted it out up front, not put it as a secondary thought in the email, and finish with “ha ha.”
So I responded with this email:
Hi sister –
that is shocking.
tell me exactly what happened –
Have you reported it to the police?
Were you hurt?
This is what she replied:
Reported to the cops and the bank, but nobody cares-its that sigh of relief “Well if it happened to her it won’t likely happen to me.” I’ve never argued with a gun, so I wasn’t hurt-just expecting a hideous month of people wanting their money that I no longer have. I haven’t felt this low for a very long time. No Christmas this year, if I can even get straightened out by the end of the year. I had just withdrawn the rent and heat money to drop off on my way home, as I’ve done for 15 years. I park the car a few blocks away so I get some small walking in-and there he was, shabby, desperate. I handed him my bag, as he demanded, he took only the cash, and gave it back. I went straight back to the bank-it was pouring rain, so no witnesses. The manager even said “How do I know you aren’t just saying this?”-but then, everyone knows he’s an asshole. Went to the police station, filed a report, came home, cried for a very long time.
Here was my immediate response:
dear sister –
thank God you weren’t shot.
you must have been shaken up.
is that a particularly dangerous area? Or did he follow you from the bank?
I have a journalist friend works for the Toronto Globe & Mail – let me know the police station, and the officer you gave your report to – with phone number – and I might see if I can get him to do a story on this, and get your money back through public donation. Or at least start an online collection – like that go-fund-me. It’s worth a try…
This is what Sister Clare came back with –
I am so touched that you would think of trying to raise the money for me. I wish the world were that good! I can’t give any details, I was told, on the chance that one day he might be caught and prosecuted. I believe their hope is that this guy will try it again and they will catch him. If there was publicity it would forewarn him. I don’t know what its like where you live, but here, once you file a police report the information is sole property of the Crown. I went through a similar merry go round with the attempted murder charges years ago.
Its not a dangerous area, just an empty one. they say here that once the summer tourists are gone you could shoot a cannonball down the main street and never hurt a soul-its true. There are only 700 in the village, most retirement age , and over half of them are on their way south for the winter. They have condos etc in Florida and Texas-known as “snowbirds” here, as they always leave before the snow and return when it has melted. There are any number of places he could have waited to see someone leave the bank, and follow them. And there are several tiny villages he could try it in. I’m afraid what the police told me is true, “There’s no help for you, ma’am” Ma’am!!!!! Couldn’t even sharpen up enough to call me Sister!
HI Sister –
what I’m thinking is this – if I can get the reporter to speak to the police, and keep it non-specific, then we could get some publicity and use that to raise money for you online.
Remember that homeless person who found that stash of money and returned it? Someone started a donation website and the guy got hundreds of thousands of dollars. We could do the same for you – nun with debilitating injuries, looking after a son who is a quadriplegic – no money for rent or heating – virtually destitute – then held up at gunpoint and her life threatened. It’s a great harrowing story. But I would need that reporter to act on this, and he would need to speak to the police.
It could literally be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to you sister, if we can get it into the mass media. So please reconsider – and I can get onto the journo and he can speak to the cops, and then to you to get a full interview, photos, etc…
Please don’t think its me being difficult. I checked with my lawyer this morning just to be sure, and I really can’t give you any information involvoing (sic) the police or their report. There is nothing I wouldn’t give to make this different. Already I’m getting threatening emails about money- I put some bids on some inexpensive ebay items for Christmas gifts that I can’t pay for now, so that goes against my credit rating. I can live with being shut out of ebay, but I used to have perfect credit.
This morning a bill payment came through my account at the bank and because I can’t cover it, the bank has now charged me a $45 NSF fee that I will be getting several more times as, obviously none of the bill payments on auto withdrawal are going to be covered. And the bank knows I was robbed, but can’t turn down the opportunity to make more money.
In the 80’s a monk from my Order who lived in New York was murdered for his welfare cheque. Today, when I can’t stop crying, it seems to me he got the better deal.
do you have a copy of the police report you filed?
If you have that, and you’re happy for me to post it, I can start up a GoFundMe website to collect donations.
That won’t contravene any laws.
I’d be interested to read the report anyway… it sounds truly shocking, what happened to you…
Here’s what she came back with:
No-I wasn’t given a copy. The best I can do is retell or blog my story
This was strange, I thought. You file a police report for armed robbery – and you aren’t given a police report? That seemed very odd to me. At this point I phoned a good friend who lives in Montreal. She’s a very experienced television journalist and documentary maker. She told me that if you lose your wallet on a bus in Canada, you are given a police report.
So I questioned Sister Clare more closely –
Hi Sister –
Whenever you fill out a police report, you’re always given a copy as a matter of course.
Can you please give me the name of the police station where you filed the report, and the name of the officer?
Why can’t you get your lawyer to get you a copy?
I hope you understand that I’m trying to do everything possible to get you some money, but I can’t do anything until I get a copy of that police report.
Here was Sister Clare’s response:
Bill, believe me I am aware that my fate basically lies in your hands, and I am grateful. I intend to get a copy of the report, but will have to recheck with my lawyer-because and I am not happy about this – I think giving it to a third party with intention to publish is an offense. I am sure the only reason I didn’t get a copy was my rush to get out of there, and an oversight on their part. There is also a friendly (I think) police chief in town whom I will speak to about the consequences of “losing” my copy.
And if nothing can be done, I would like your nod to blog about what happened and the non-co-operation of the agencies involved-because I think if I got robbed on the Camino, people would come forth to help-and I don’t understand why it can’t be the same way in the larger world.
This now started to concern me. Was Sister Clare wanting to post on my blog that she was robbed at gunpoint, so that “people could come forth to help…”?
What sort of help? Donations? Like we did with the Kit the Nun campaign.
By now there were enough inconstancies in her story to make me very wary – and so I pushed harder to get the police report. I did not want her to use my blog to post anything that I couldn’t prove to be true and factual.
Also, I was curious because suddenly her email name had changed, to Alison Ferrier – not Sr Simon Clare, as it always had been. So here’s how I responded:
Hi Sister –
a quick question: your email has the name Alison Ferrier on it, yet it’s the same underlying email address.
Is that your name or someone else’s?
Why do you ask?
Your name on your email address is Alison Ferrier. It used to be Sr.Simon – I want to know who Alison Ferrier is – and why you would be emailing under that name…
Why won’t you tell me?
I think we have a misunderstanding here. First, yes I know that its law that I get a copy of the police report. Unhappily its not the first time I have had to file one! Whoops-don’t know how the italics got here. Sorry.
The PGS family has gone way above and beyond in helping me make it to the Camino. You can check with Susan-I’ve been trying to come up with appropriate thank you’s for each of them, you included. Remember I asked for your address in Mudgee?I couldn’t and wouldn’t ask or accept another thing from any of them-it violates my respect for you all, and my own sense of values. I can see how you interpreted it that way, but I just can’t do it.I love those people, Bill. Don’t you see that ? Is that why you think I told you about what happened to me?
I felt things were a bit awkward after I came home from Retreat. Remember I wrote to you and asked about it. Because I need to recover from this whole nightmare, I wrote yesterday to explain I might not be as available for a couple of days-and I did that because I felt the tone of your last emails was more like we used to be able to talk, and I didn’t want you to think there was a problem between us. You are certainly right in that I am shocky.But I have always come right out and said what I was feeling or thinking. I don’t do coy.My word to the Sacred Blood of Christ.
I thought of the blog only for the reasons I shared with you. Since I realise one of the others might also see it that way, which would deeply distress me, I don’t want to do it on any terms.I get the feeling you think I am lying to you. What have I ever done to make you think I am not truthful, Bill?You are right to sense there is something about this I am not telling you. I hate that I can’t say what you need to hear. Please trust its for a legitimate reason.
I can only love you more for being such a compassionate soul-thank you for that. We need more Bills.Because of how I feel about you, its best if we can let this be just something one friend told another. That’s all I intended it to be-but I got carried away by the thought of there being a way I could recover the money.Shame on me.Friendship is always more important. I hope that’s ok with you
I responded with this:
Hi Sister –
thank you for saying all that… that’s so very sweet of you.
Please understand that all I want to do is help you. For you to be held up at gunpoint, and to have your rent taken, and your heating money, and your credit rating to suffer – all that is just horrible.
Jen and I have decided that we will send you $700. But I need to sight that police report.
Once I’ve sighted that report – and of course it’s for my eyes only – then we will wire through $700.
Jennifer and I had spoken, and we had agreed to sending her the $700 – because if what she claimed was true, then it was a most shocking and dreadful thing to happen. But first I needed to be convinced that her story was true.
Here’s how she responded –
Thank you for your kind offer- I am very touched. But I couldn’t possibly accept. You are already paying my way to the Camino, which is overwhelming in so many ways! One day when I have written the great Canadian novel, I will be paying you back. And as much as I want to, I can’t share the report with you. There is confidential information about a third party in it, and violating that would compromise my vows as a nun.That’s the only other thing I haven’t told you. No, wait-its not. I have asked the police not to prosecute. That guy has enough troubles right now.
You and Jennifer must be almost ready to leave for Portugal, isn’t that right? That’s what you should be thinking about, and spending money there and on a wonderful Christmas present for Jennifer, is where your money needs to go! Please.
By now, I was really starting to get suspicious. She would knock back a genuine offer of $700? It was apparent to me that she either didn’t want to produce the police report that she claimed she’d filed – or it didn’t exist.
I now wanted to try and get independent verification of what happened, so this is what I then asked:
Hi Sister –
what bank was it?
And which town?
Do you mean which bank I had come out of? Why? Ithought we agreed we were done with this!
Hi Sister –
yes, which bank did you come out of?
My bank, of course!
It was now very apparent that she didn’t want to give me any information whereby I could check her story. And so I began to do my own investigation. Remember, I was trained as a journalist – ten years at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation before I moved across into filmmaking.
I have won two Australian Emmy’s for my journalistic work, including Reporter of the Year. I know how to get information, and I know how to check its veracity. I was determined to find out the truth…
I will post Part 3 tomorrow.
For those of you who are critical of me posting in instalments, all I can say is that I am currently down in the lobby of a hotel in Pontevedra, (no internet in my room) and I have a wife who is waiting patiently upstairs for me to take her out to dinner.
She is not happy that this is taking up so much of my time.
Also, there’s a lot here for you to absorb.