Home had never looked so good to Syed Shakeeluddin and his family when an airport van dropped them off in front of their Long Island house after a long trip to their native Pakistan.
True, it was midnight, and the only light came from a street lamp, but everything seemed just as they had left it four months ago.Shakeeluddin unloaded their eight suitcases. He opened the gate of the chain-link fence around the front yard, walked to the front door and started to unlock it, but - something was wrong - he didn't need to. He quickly pushed the door open.
"I was stunned," Shakeeluddin said Saturday, four days later.
The carpet was gone. The iron railing on the staircase was gone. He tried to turn on a light but couldn't - the light bulbs were gone, too. It turned out that just about everything in the house was gone, right down to the soap and the shampoo from the bathroom.
"My wife started crying," he said.
Burglars had left only the curtains, the stove and a few drawers from their daughter's white dresser that they found on the kitchen floor. And, oh yes, recalled Shakeeluddin, feather stuffing from a disemboweled mattress remained behind, littering the living room floor. "It looked like a dream to me," he recalled.
Gone were their new sofa and dining room set, their clothes - even the clothes for their daughters, ages 2 and 6 - telephones, pots and pans, bathroom mats, toys, covers for electrical switches, the oil burner for the heating system and the house's alarm system.
His wife's wedding jewelry - a diamond necklace and gold bangles - also had been taken. So, too, had the wheelchairs and a special bathtub for their eldest daughter, Anam, who is disabled and retarded.
The wheels of their car were gone, as well as its battery, radio and air-conditioning system.
Police told the Daily News that they believe the Bay Shore house was burglarized more than once, possibly by different people. Neighbors told the newspaper that they suspected people from a nearby drug-dealing location.
Suffolk County police were investigating.
Shakeeluddin said he had taken precautions before leaving with his wife and their children to visit her ailing father and brother in Karachi, Pakistan.
He said he had turned on the house's alarm system and had stopped mail and newspaper delivery. He said he had asked neighbors to keep an eye on the house and had asked a friend to drive by occasionally.
Shakeeluddin, an unemployed pharmacist, and his family are now living in a mobile home, provided by their insurance company.