A Niagara-on-the-Lake couple received a literal rude awakening from a stranger early Sunday and they want to warn other residents to be wary of people pounding on their door in the middle of the night.
The couple, who live in Old Town, suspect the incident was an attempted home invasion or other type of scam.
They were jarred from their sleep at about 3:30 a.m. by the sound of someone trying to open their front door. When the husband got up, he heard a young woman “crying and sobbing,” seemingly in distress.
Alarmed and worried, the couple, retirees who asked to remain anonymous due to security concerns, did not open the door but told the young woman they were calling the police to get help.
Shortly after that, the woman, who said her name was “Julie,” vanished.
Niagara Regional Police arrived quickly but didn't find anyone. They didn't search the couple's property, but looked around the neighbourhood.
Police spokesperson Stephanie Sabourin told The Lake Report that investigators have not determined what the late-night visitor's intention was.
“Detectives would advise anyone with concerns to contact police for a proper investigation and to be cautious opening their door to unknown persons,” Sabourin said.
The couple said they have heard nothing more from police since early Sunday and have been unable to track down investigators.
While there could be other explanations for the incident, they strongly suspect it was an attempt to gain entry to their home, located on a quiet cul de sac.
That suspicion was amplified on Monday morning when they noticed at the side of their garage that “it appears someone had been standing on the irises to get really close to the wall so he wouldn't be seen because they were all trampled,” the wife said.
The couple shared news of the incident via email with friends and neighbours to warn them to be careful. The message, sent Sunday, quickly went viral as it was spread all around town by email and social media.
“I think what's really important is if you get this strange knock in the middle of the night, someone pretends to be in distress and your first instinct is to help a person and you open the door, and the next thing you know strangers rush in,” the wife said in an interview.
“So it's important not to open the door to strangers, to talk to them through the door and if they need assistance. 911 is easy to call and they were here very quickly the police.”
Her husband noted, “This is documented that this happens, especially where there are seniors, where somebody's seen a lady in distress and we all want to help. It sounded like a young girl, maybe 18 or 20, a teenage girl and she's whimpering and bawling, crying her eyes out. All phony, of course.”
That's when he told her he was notifying police and she subsequently fled.
He wants NOTL residents to be aware of what happened so that if it was indeed an attempted home invasion, people will be wise to the scam.
“I think the most important lesson that I would gather from this is never, ever open the door to anybody, unless you know them, of course. Don't open it to any stranger, especially at 3:30 a.m. And call the police right away.”