Alarm bells as list of empty homes is mislaid

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The Independent Online

Perhaps it is best not to unsettle the monied set from Cheshire who are basking in a Caribbean sun today by disclosing what a man and his dog discovered fluttering around a pavement back home.

Perhaps it is best not to unsettle the monied set from Cheshire who are basking in a Caribbean sun today by disclosing what a man and his dog discovered fluttering around a pavement back home.

It was a thin sheaf of six documents detailing facts that would have sounded a faint alarm bell to the owners of one £600,000 establishment: "Girl over the road will be watering plants of an evening time."

That is the best of it. A four-digit alarm code to a cottage under renovation in the salubrious village of Bowdon, near Altrincham, is the worst.

The information, entitled Holiday Check List and revealing the dates on which five addresses in Bowdon would be empty, was mislaid by the private security firm employed by their owners at £65 a month while they escaped to the sun.

Detailing the addresses of 60 clients, it was handed to police by the man who chanced upon it with his dog.

The company, Altrincham's West Valley (Mobile) Security, declined to comment yesterday though an apology is understood to have been offered, along with a pledge to improve procedures and avoid a repeat of the mistake.

Those customers on the list who are back in the UK remained rather shaken. One woman described how she and her husband were the victims of a burglary several months ago. "I was devastated because the list could have been disastrous if it had fallen into wrong hands," said the woman.

West Valley uses marked patrol cars and uniformed officers to monitor hundreds of homes throughout the year, many of which display the firm's distinctive green octagonal logo.

The security firm's custom - including the likes of Manchester United captain Roy Keane - appeared secure last night, despite the mishap. "Anyone can make a mistake. Even Rolls-Royce cars break down," said another customer on the holiday list.

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