Being Robbed and Beating Women


It’s a strange thing being robbed.   You don’t expect it, think other people are nuts, and they must be doing something wrong when it happens to them.

That would never happen to me!  …you’d say.

I know, because that’s exactly how I’ve always felt.   I’ve always been a bit paranoid, careful, and aware of my surroundings.   I’ve been in some awkward situations, and spending significant time in Los Angeles teaches you to always have one eye looking over your shoulder.

The worst way I’ve ever been violated in the past was having my car broken into outside my apartment, and having some cd’s stolen.  And even that was in the late 90’s.  So long ago it’s nothing more than a memory.

I had heard the bad things about the pickpockets in Barcelona, and I listened to them repeated when we were there at the show.  The warnings about carrying things in your front pockets only, keeping your hands in your pockets to secure them there, all that stuff.   I’m paranoid, careful, and aware of my surroundings, remember?

It’s a shame, Barcelona, that the most outstanding memory I have of visiting your city is being nearly robbed, and beating a woman, as accidental in nature as it was (some would say “deserved”).  So what you’re about to read is my account of what happened.

After a great day at the show, a hot shower, and a change of clothes, the team and I headed to dinner at a fantastic Italian joint in The W.  We were joined at the last minute by a couple of others and had a nice group for dinner.  A good time was had by all.    After this, we attended #vBacon in the lounge, also at The W, and again, a good time was had by all.

However, the premier event of the night was the always-fantastic and memorable Veeam party, to be held at the Shoko Barcelona.   So after vBacon, we hopped in cabs and headed out.

The party was fantastic.  Open bar, great Euro house music, and lots of people dancing and having a blast.   This went on for several hours.  Lots of community folks I’ve known for years now just having a good time and enjoying themselves.

Later, I met back up in the club with a guy who is becoming my partner-in-crime at these shows, Patrick Redknap, and as the bar was closing down, we walked outside to go to the taxi line.

Almost immediately, I had a “lady of the night” on each side of me, rubbing all over me, quite literally, to the point I was uncomfortable, and threw my hands up in the air, so as not to touch them, and started to speed-walk away.

What came next happened so fast, literally a second or less, that the full gravity of the situation didn’t really hit me until a couple of hours later when I had sobered up.

I felt it.


<self> “Hey that’s my back pocket…”

I felt the back pocket that I had snapped closed earlier pop open, and in one smooth motion, my wallet was coming out of my pocket.  I swirled around, as if to swat an annoying mosquito away, but with a balled fist.  Not intending to “strike” anyone, my closed fist naturally connected with the side of her face, and just from the sheer force of how fast I had spun around, I hit her so hard it took her off her feet and knocked her to the ground.

Laying next to her on the ground, was my wallet.  She had done it.  In a matter of 5 seconds or so, she and her companion [read: co-conspirator] had successfully removed my wallet from my back pocket, behind a snapped closed pocket, and underneath the tail of an untucked shirt.

As I reached down for my wallet on the ground, I noticed she was STILL reaching for it.  When I had it back in my hand, she scrambled up and ran off.  In sheer rage of what had just happened, I began to chase her down, but realized that with a bum knee, I wasn’t going to gain any ground.  She was gone, and likely on to her next victim.

I contemplated trying to alert the police, but in my inebriated state, all I wanted to do was get in a cab and go back to my hotel.

I didn’t sleep much that night.  I called and talked to my best friend in the States for a couple of hours explaining the situation to him, even breaking down at one point over the guilt.   Funny enough, the thing that bothered me the most was that I had done something I was raised to never do, have physically beaten a guy FOR doing, and told myself I would never do.

I had struck a woman.  It was very hard for me to cope with this.  Even though I received encouraging support from many friends, it still kept me up most of the night.

“She deserved it.”
“She got what she had coming.”
“Dumb bitch shouldn’t have been stealing.”

The next morning, after only napping for an hour or so, I awoke to a swollen and bruised hand.

<self> “Holy shit, dude, you must have really clocked her!”

This didn’t help me cope at all.  So many emotions went through me.  How desperate must a person be to willingly rob a person in the open public like that?  I began to feel sorry for her, and, in turn, even more guilty.  I’ve always given to charities, and if I have loose change or a spare smoke, I’ll hand it out when the mood strikes me.  Had she only asked, I probably would have handed her one of the $20 bills in my wallet.

I eventually came to terms with it, composed myself, and went back to the show the next day, only to be asked a million times, “OMG DUDE!  WHAT HAPPENED?!”  This too did not help with letting it slip away into a faded memory, but it was nice to know people cared and were concerned.

So to all of you that reached out in any way, thank you.   For those of you that didn’t hear the whole story, now you know.  :)

@Storagezilla gave me some really good advice that I will follow from now on.  I will never travel abroad without locking my passport and at least one debit/credit card in the hotel room safe.    Even if everything else gets taken, I can still get home.

I couldn’t wait to leave Barcelona and get home.  Shame on you, Barcelona, for allowing your beautiful city to get SO bad that the reputation that precedes you is the prevalence of pickpockets.

Moral of the story?  It could happen to you.  No, seriously.   It even happened to the paranoid, careful, and aware of his surroundings guy.



  1. Chris

     Unlucky –  it happens and hopefully you’ll look back and realise you did well to get out to the situation intact (rather than guilt at defending yourself).
     You no doubt looked an easy target though (foreign drunk tourist). If all city reputations were based on what happened to drunk men on business trips, I don’t think anyone would want to visit any of them!

     Keeping stuff in back pockets is a definite no-no. 

  2. Mike Laverick

    Nick. What a very thoughtful and measured response/post to what is a horrible incident. As European it distresses me that when you come to our continent you had this experience. I guess that’s a bit silly to say. I could have easily taken a wrong turn in San Fran, and walked unknowningly into district that is unsafe. Anyway, I digress – great post and one that shows your real humanity, in being able to actually have empathy for what brings another human to such a low point that they sell their body on the street or resort to a life of crime. 

    I know how you feel about being victim of crime. Myself and Carmel were a couple of years ago. Won’t bore you with the details, as this isn’t place for that. But you do go through a range of emotions. Even now I know I’m still very angry with what happened. The fact that total stranger can come along and **** with your karma is deeply distressing – especially if you feel that authorities are powerless to do anything about it. In the end we moved out to a more rural location, and left the city behind. The noise and traffic of Barcelona (or any sizeable city) remind me that at this stage in my life – the city is the last place I want to live. Not that a rural location is some crimeless idyll but sadly the the best and the worst of humanity brought out when you cram 1m+ people into small space.

    Good post, and timely reminder to all of us who are lawbidding to be on our guard.

    1. Nick Howell


      You’re right.  This could happen to anyone, anywhere, in any city, inebriated or not.  Joe Onisick recommended a nice piece of reading called ESCAPE THE WOLF, and it looks intriguing and cannot wait to read it.

      1. Sam

        anywhere any city….of course – but it’s the frequency of these crimes in Barcelona. Of course this could happen in London. SF, NY or other cities. But the chances of it happening in BCN are higher. Surely that’s the point. What needs to be discussed is administration and governance. How have they let human trafficking become so prevalent? How have they let muggings and robbery get so incredibly out of hand? I lived there in 2005 and every time I go back it seems to have got worse. BCN makes so much dollar from tourism you would think they would be capable of investing some of that in ‘root and branch’ policing? Sit on Las Ramblas…any night of the week. Count how many muggings or attempted muggings you see. Now count how many police you see. I don’t know much about the governance of BCN or Catulyna, but if I lived there I would want police/politicians/administrators to be held up to account…and a road map to a future where these crimes are less tolerated and less common place.

  3. vmdoug

    Thanks for sharing Nick. Hopefully getting this out there will help in your healing process. Getting violated in any way always takes an emotional toll, I’m glad that you got your wallet back and you’re physically OK.

    1. Nick Howell

      Thanks Doug.  It was surprisingly therapeutic, and took me a few days to get through it.  I’m pretty well over it at this point, but I’m glad it’s being received the right way, and hopefully people heed the words as cautionary when traveling.

      Nice party at Shoko.  That was a cool place.  (And I got to dance with Yulia)  :)

  4. Harrisp72

    I would say that you didn’t so much “hit a woman”, as to “instictively protect yourself from a crime”.  I wouldn’t let your conscience bother you too much.

  5. G.

    Would have done the same. Don’t even feel bad for hitting her. I  live here for 6 years and I can’t stand thieves. They are everywhere. I hate them so much and the city doesn’t do anything…
    I woud say good job

  6. T-man

    Classic story mate. After living 10 years in Barcelona as a gringo, you learn to cope with these situations a bit more elegant. On your side, I heard of these ladies (who in that part of town actually are men) beating up their victim if they try to resist the robbery. So just feel lucky you got away with your wallet and smaller scratches to your pride. 

    Remember that these people are working in this dodgy business, not to support a rich life full of luxery, but mostly to support a starving family abroad – honestly, they cannot get a job here. 

  7. GuapetonDisqus

    Sorry to hear about your travails Nick. But man, don’t blame Barcelona. You’d been warned, then warned again. And then you still carry your wallet in your back pocket while visibly drunk? Dude, shame on you for being so “won’t happen to me” cocky to let this situation arise in the first place. There will be shady thieves around for as long as there are easy pickings to be had – in any city. So if you don’t want to have to hit or chase anybody, take heed of warnings and perhaps cut back on the drinks…

    1. Nick Howell


      You’re exactly right.  Lesson certainly learned.  The reason I was harsh on Barcelona is because the reputation precedes it for pickpockets, to the point that there were travel advisories, and I’ve had several people tell me that nothing is really done about it.  We were informed that the “Thieves Guild” of Europe was informed that there were 10k conference attendees to a conference in Barcelona, and they converged.  So, yes, absolutely shame on me for not heeding the warnings.As far as your comments about drinks, so much here can be taken out of context.  I wasn’t stumbling around, unable to carry myself, which is what I would consider “drunk.”  Had I had a couple of drinks casually while dancing the night away? Sure.  But in no way was I “drunk.”Either way, I had the where-with-all to deal with the situation, albeit not the way I intended, but I was aware of what was happening to me.I didn’t carry a wallet the rest of the week, and won’t carry one in my travels in the future.

      Thanks for reading!

    2. Geoff Rose

      Its not just while having your wallet in your back pocket either – I had one guy try to get my wallet from my front pocket by grabbing me and trying to dance with me. I wasnt drunk – it was about 4pm but I was on my phone. Luckily he did not succeed. He didnt look to poor either. Seems there are a lot of bleeding hearts here. Nick I think you were totally within your rights to do what you did. You didnt ask for something to go down – they started it so dont feel bad. Of course they know the risks of what they are doing and accept it. Just feel lucky it wasnt worse – A friend of mine who lives there and is from South America and hence very street wise had a guy throw something in his eyes in an attempt to rob him.

  8. Inthethickofit79

    Having lived in the neighbourhood of Raval for a year where many of the Nigerian “prostitutes” operate in Barcelona, and being an anthropologist and inquisitive, I read up a little about this. The sorry harsh reality is that the majority of these girls are trafficked and many steal out of desperation: to pay extortionate amounts to their traffickers and keepers, under threat of harm to their families back home and the fear of breaking ties forged in Juju rites.

    I doubt very much that the distance between the world you describe in your post and that of the “dumb bitch” trafficked Nigerian girl is one that you can fathom.

    A little extra information here:

    1. Nick Howell


      That certainly does not make me feel any better about what went down.  That is absolutely terrible.  The “dumb bitch” comment was quoted as an example of some of the things people were saying in support after the incident happened, not something I was directly thinking myself.

      Thanks for sharing the link and information, as I too am of the inquisitive sort.

  9. michelle

    I’m in barcelona on vacation right now and as a women ….I would have to say, good for you for giving her a punch in the face for stealing your wallet. I was thinking of different scenarios in my head if someone Stoll my purse. I would have done the same thing out of reaction.

  10. Mark Stewart

    I’ve just read this and sorry for the agro you’ve faced here, Ignore the a-hole guapaton …I live here and the thieves are rife, no matter what you do they are quicker than you they work in gangs …. I don’t go into the city center at night anymore, I hate going in during the day. My wife has been robbed twice there, and once when stood with 10 people including an off duty policeman they attempted to steal her bag, fortunately we managed to run them down recover the bag and have the thugs arrested …but they were released and are probably doing it again.

    BLAME BARCELONA – Tell your colleagues not to come here, avoid it for holidays and only then the government (missing the tourist money) might do something.

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