Quiet teacher goes from robbery victim to neighbourhood champ

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PETALING JAYA: A careless moment five years ago which led to an encounter with a gun-toting robber turned a quiet piano teacher into a community champion.

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Mary Jegaraj said she had led a simple life centred on music and church up to then. She didn’t even bother with social media.

But after the snatch theft in the driveway of her home in 2017, she became involved in community affairs – and now spreads the word about scams and fake news.

“I’m a simple and meticulous person but on that day I was careless, and I was angry at myself for being careless,” said Mary, now in her 50s.

She and a friend had just returned from shopping and were alighting from the car in her compound when a gun-toting man barged in and snatched her handbag.

“The rule was that when I entered the compound, I would shut the automatic gate with a remote control before alighting the car. That day it slipped my mind. As I got out, a guy appeared with a gun, pulled the bag from my shoulder, and fled with his accomplice in a car,”.

The CCTV footage, which she shared with her friends, quickly spread on social media. Police arrested the culprit about a week later.

But she faced much criticism on social media from people who said she had left the gate open for 40 seconds “and it took the guy only 12 seconds” to carry out the robbery.

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She said the police told her she was among seven victims of the man that day and the next.

Two friends who saw the CCTV footage invited her to join the community-based group MyPJ, where members discuss and sort out matters of concern to residents.

She took on the task of raising awareness about crime prevention. During the days of Covid-19 lockdown and movement restrictions, she took it upon herself to filter “fake news” from the facts.

“At that time, the spread of fake news related to Covid-19 and the MCO was rampant.” She soon realised people were not able to tell fact from fiction.

“I went the extra mile to file police reports on certain fake news. My colleagues didn’t expect me to go to that extent to stop the fear-mongering rumours,” she said.

Since then, she has helped to spread the word, especially to the elderly, about ways to identify scams and fake news.

She said she wouldn’t have been ingrained with the community spirit if not for that snatch theft. “I see the incident as a blessing in disguise. Without it, perhaps I would not have mingled with the community. I didn’t even know such an NGO existed,” she said.– FMT


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