Published: 00:01, 10 December 2018
An Indian shopkeeper has lost his life savings and priceless heirlooms in a burglary - the latest in a series of raids targeting a town's Asian community.
The thieves made off with £50,000 in cash and gold jewellery, valued at around £30,000, from Umesh Patel, who owns M and P Newsagents in Northumberland Court, Maidstone.
It comes just weeks after KentOnline's sister paper the Kent Messenger reported on calls for more police protection from Asian householders, who say they are living in fear of falling victim to thefts.
The burglary has been a life-shattering blow for Mr Patel, whose family is still coming to terms with the effects of a heart attack, which put his wife Rima in a coma and has left her with severe memory loss.
He told the Kent Messenger said: “Everybody knows me here and knows the difficulties we’ve had as a family. It seems so cruel that somebody should do this.”
The thieves were spotted climbing out of a window to his flat, close to the shop, on Wednesday, November 21, while Mr Patel, who has run the newsagents since 2011, was at the cash-and-carry. He says his losses were not insured.
One of Mr Patel’s customers, Jill Allen, said: “They are such a lovely family, it’s terrible this should happen to them.”
Police were called shortly before 5.51pm but no arrests have yet been made.
The description of three men dressed all in black matches that of thieves who have preyed on other Asian victims across the borough in recent weeks. It is thought they are targeted by criminals who know families often have lots of valuable jewellery in their homes, traditionally passed down through the generations. One of the biggest victims was Afghani Alli Ahmed who lost £20,000 of gold after burglars broke into his Langley home.
He said: “There are CCTV cameras all around here. Every shop has them. I find it hard to believe the police haven’t been able to find any footage of the thieves.”
Anyone with information should contact police on 01622 604100, quoting 46/9484/18.
Alternatively, you can contact the independent charity ‘Crimestoppers in Kent’ anonymously on 0800 555111.