Published: 14:00, 11 July 2014
A holidaying Kent couple are lucky to be alive after thieves raided their campervan by knocking them out – with sleeping gas.
Shaken Debbie Keeney, 54, and her 68-year-old partner Bob John were just 10 days into their annual month-long trip to France when the terrifying raid took place.
The couple, from Manston, lost around £200 cash, £300 of jewellery and passports along with credit and debit cards after stopping for the night at a service station.
Debbie woke up early and noticed curtains in the front of their campervan were open and the driver's door was slightly ajar.
Local police and Debbie suspect they were gassed as they slept because she is sure the commotion would have woken her.
"It's horrible - the thought of someone in my bedroom while we were both asleep is terrifying and makes you feel violated..." - Debbie Keeney
French police have noticed several Eastern European gangs preying on holidaymakers in the same way.
Part-time newsagent Debbie said: "I realised that someone had been inside the van so got up and noticed the door and curtains open and that my handbag was gone.
"The gassing thing happened to a friend of ours in England so it made me think the same thing must have happened to us.
"We didn't hear a thing and we are both light sleepers - especially in the campervan where you feel and hear absolutely everything - so I’m sure we would've woken up.
"We also both had a thick head and a sore throat in the morning and just felt ill. Whatever we were breathing in wasn't nice."
Debbie and retired gardener Bob left the service station in Lancon de Provence, southern France, and reported the theft to police, who have not been in contact with them since.
They carried on with their holiday, but had to fork out £200 for emergency passports so they could return to the UK on July 6.
Debbie said: "It's horrible - the thought of someone in my bedroom while we were both asleep is terrifying and makes you feel violated.
"It hasn't put us off going on another holiday like this because we've been doing it for the last 15 years and we don't want them to feel like they've won.
"We're going to beef up the security on the van though. At the moment we have general locks on and an alarm, but it's a motion sensor so we couldn't have it on when we were sleeping.
"You just don't think things like this will happen to you though so we assumed the locks we had would be fine."
She added: "I would recommend going to a secure campsite in the future though but at the time we thought we would be safe - everyone's had a kip at the side of the road before so it didn't cross our minds this could happen.
"We were obviously left feeling shaken up by the whole thing, but we're just thankful nothing worse happened to us and that it didn't ruin our holiday."
Police believe the raid was the work of Eastern European gangs who regularly target tourists in the area.
A spokesman said: "They release a knockout gas through van air vents or windows - and can then rob the vehicle without anyone knowing. It's been blighting this area for years."
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