Dame Susan Devoy was yesterday recovering from having her sons trapped in their house while it was being burgled.
The newly appointed race relations commissioner arrived home at 8pm on Friday from the funeral for the son of a close friend.
She said as she and two of her four sons drew up, they noticed lights on in the house and thought that was strange.
They then found their spare key, normally hidden outside, in the front door lock.
They realised they had been burgled, and Devoy left the boys at home while she went to get husband John. But minutes later she received a frantic call from Josh, 15, and Jamie, 14, saying the burglar was still in the house.
They could hear him upstairs.
"They went into a major panic," Devoy said.
She had to talk them through locking themselves in the bathroom as an impromptu panic room so they did not come face-to-face with the burglar.
She rang police, who reached the house in five minutes, she said. By then the burglar had fled.
Devoy said the family had been targeted several times in the past six months and it raised the prospect that someone had been watching their movements.
"It's very scary."
It was also a lesson for people not to hide a key outside, she said.
The house was fully alarmed.
"We are like Fort Knox now," Devoy said.
But the usually sensitive monitors had not activated on Friday night.
It topped a hard week for the family. Devoy said yesterday morning she received a call from eldest son Julian Oakley, a track athlete at college in the US - someone had stolen his credit card details and gone on a spending spree in New York.
It all comes on the heels of criticism of her appointment as race relations commissioner.
"I'll be all right, I'm a tough nut. I've had hundreds of messages of support."
- Sunday Star Times