There is a knock on the door. This is not what I expected from someone trying to break into my home but apparently it is common practice as it reveals if anyone is in, writes Toby Walne.

Rather than sneaking around the back in the dead of night, most hardened burglars prefer to strike during the day if no one is about.

Fortunately, I am able to answer the door - which has both a latch lock and deadlock. Yet this does not stop reformed burglar Michael Fraser from offering a rather menacing smile as he shakes my hand with a vice-like grip.

His opening gambit is to the point. He says: "This place looks pretty secure, but the giveaway is that keyhole of yours that is covered in cobwebs. You obviously never use the deadlock.


"Thank you. I would take out the front door window, turn the latch lock and be inside your home in 30 seconds. I could turn over the entire house and be out in three minutes flat."

I'm left nonplussed. I'm not living in the fortress that I thought I was.

Michael is not wearing a Dick Turpin mask or black-and-white striped top with a swag bag over his shoulder. Instead he is dressed to blend in with the crowd. Black leather gloves are the only giveaway, while break-in tools and swag bags are often unwittingly provided by homeowners, found about the premises.

Michael, who fronts TV show Beat The Burglar, says: "You don't want to get caught with tools on you. Most burglars will improvise and just use something you have left outside the home.

"They are opportunists. Open windows or back doors are immediate invitations as is that dusty keyhole. I would also guess that although you have a house alarm, the dusty nature of the box suggests it is rarely used."

He is spot on. The alarm is too much of a hassle to use all the time - only when on holiday.

Reformed thief, Michael Fraser, helps people to protect their homes against burglary. Photo / Beat The Burglar Twitter
Reformed thief, Michael Fraser, helps people to protect their homes against burglary. Photo / Beat The Burglar Twitter

Michael is already wielding a car jack tool found in my open garage. He then shows me how to dismantle a window frame without the sound of broken glass.

He says: "If the front of the house looks weak then the rear will be even weaker. But I would not bother going round the back as I have already found a way in. It wastes time and risks a neighbour seeing me - a burglar just gets on with the job."

He is impressed with the double glazed windows with locks - even more so with the wooden shutters on the inside. But his eagle eyes miss nothing.

Michael says: "Even from outside I can see your family calendar - showing me when you are going away and inviting me to break in. Considerately, you have also put on view all your keys on hooks with labels on what doors they are for. A burglar appreciates such kindness but you will find it expensive when you have to replace all the locks after a break-in."

I am deflated. Yet I am still confident that once inside the home there will be nothing of any great value to plunder - we do not have valuable jewellery, watches or much money lying around - though I do like my laptop.

Michael says: "Sorry. I don't want that laptop - it is not high spec enough. Perhaps when you get it upgraded it might be worth me coming back for. But then again, I might still take it for the hard drive memory just in case there is something valuable on it. Who knows? I might be able to demand a ransom for pictures - wedding photographs or something else."

The potential horror of what he has just said dawns on me. This is not just about the theft of some personal items but unique memories that cannot be replaced.

Michael says: "Look - this is nothing personal but it is just my job. There is no emotion involved and a burglar will plunder with a cold heart. Do not believe that nonsense about leaving children's rooms alone - that is one of the first places a burglar looks for valuables. At the back of wardrobes and behind your cupboard drawers."

He points to his own background to show how a burglar's mind rarely shares the same comfortable sense of entitlement as homeowners.

Michael spent much of his Birmingham-based childhood living in care - escaping a violent home upbringing. But a fear of prison after being threatened with a custodial sentence for burglary at the age of 17 made him turn his back on a life of crime.

Surprisingly, Michael is not interested in stealing my TV or hi-fi system - though he would love to plunder my vinyl collection.

He only wants small items he can carry in luggage stolen from the home.

Eyeing my cabinet, he says: "I'll have all the paperwork sitting on it and any files inside - that's valuable information I can sell.

"Even with just your name and address I can clone your identity and sell your credit score to the highest bidder. It will be a nightmare for you to sort out and may hold some hidden gems for me - if I get passports and bank cards then all the better."

The prospect of having all the family files and paperwork tipped on to the floor and ransacked along with other small valuables fills me with dread.

He pulls out a travel bag found in one of the children's bedrooms and starts to fill it with paperwork found in one of the kitchen drawers and on top of a cabinet in the study.

Michael has been invited into my home as a consultant for Churchill Home Insurance, which is launching a campaign to raise awareness over the need to protect homes from burglars.

He leaves, still wearing that menacing smile. I'm crestfallen.

Thanks to the sobering lesson that Michael has given me, I will certainly be acting on his advice - and I hope readers will too.