The creak of a floorboard after lights out. A slam of a door in the dead of night. A torch flash against your window.
There are few things which get the human pulse racing faster. And there are few of us I suspect who haven’t thought what we’d be prepared to do if an intruder got into our house – particularly whilst our children are sleeping.
Twelve months ago Vincent and Karen Cooke found out how far they were prepared to go – when two burglars burst into their home in Stockport.
It was an ordinary Saturday night. Karen had gone out briefly to pick up their son from football when two men forced themselves in. Vincent had to confront them alone – only too aware his wife and son would return within minutes.
Tonight for the first time on television, the couple tell us the story of their horrendous ordeal.
Vincent describes how he was marched around his home at knife point as the burglars searched for money and a watch. How he yelled at his wife to run. And how he finally reached for a knife in a fight for survival – which ended with one of the intruders dead on the driveway of his home.
But the Cookes’ night of terror didn’t end there. Vincent was arrested on suspicion of murder – his life turned upside down in an instant. He tells us of his night spent in a police cell terrified he’d gone too far – of the agony of nearly a month on bail before he learned no charges would be brought – and of how his life has felt wrecked ever since.
Vincent was never charged because prosecutors judged he had acted in self-defence and with reasonable force. The government has insisted in cases such as the Cookes’ – the law will be on their side.
But some are arguing that homeowners now be allowed to defend their homes in any way – unless it’s deemed ‘grossly disproportionate’. Many are watching the new Justice Secretary Chris Grayling closely on this issue – as he is on the record as seeking a change in the law.
The Cooke’s experience at the hands of armed criminals lays all of these issues bare, in painful and sharp focus.
*To hear their full story and to find out whether they feel the law was on their side – watch ‘Tonight – In Self-Defence’ - tonight at 7.30pm on ITV1. *