Published: 17:30, 06 December 2018
A newsagent has revealed how she has barely left her home since it was ransacked by burglars who stole valuable family heirlooms.
Tens of thousands of pounds worth of Asian gold - with huge sentimental value - was stolen from Stella and Sunil Patel’s home.
The couple say the incident has left them ‘shocked and unable to sleep properly’. The pair, who run Beachside Stores in St Mary’s Bay, say their house in St Nicholas Road, Littlestone was turned upside down after thieves shattered the patio door to gain access.
The incident happened between 4.45pm and 8.15pm on Friday, November 23, when the pair were both working.
Mr Patel was at their shop on Jefferstone Lane while Mrs Patel was helping out at the Chinese takeaway next door.
Mr Patel, 56, arrived home first and called his wife of 31 years straight away. Mrs Patel, 53, said: “I literally just left the Chinese and said ‘I’ve got to go home’.
“I knew exactly where my jewellery was and I went straight there and they had taken it. I couldn’t breathe. The tears weren’t coming out of my eyes yet. It was a state of shock.”
Necklaces and diamond rings were among the items snatched, as well as watches and cash, including coin collections. Other items, such as TVs and laptops, were left untouched.
Much of the collection had been built up over several decades, passed down through generations for their daughters Anisha, 27, Farah, 26 and Tierney, 15. Mrs Patel had hoped the items would form the girls’ dowry, which is the transfer of parental property, gifts or money at the marriage of a daughter.
She added: “We have never shown it off - we are very humble people.
“The Asian gold also came from my mum and dad’s hard work - not just our work.
“Each of the girls had a ring that I wanted to give them. That’s not going to happen now.”
The couple have lived on Romney Marsh for almost three decades and opened their shop 28 years ago when they moved down from London. Mrs Patel said the incident has shocked her: “I haven’t properly left my house. We didn’t sleep properly because the back door was exposed.”
A few days after the break-in, their empty jewellery boxes were found on the beach by dog walkers. The items taken were not insured and their eldest daughter Anisha is hoping residents can look out for the unique jewels potentially being sold on in pawn or ‘cash for gold’ shops, or online.
She said: “The fact that the boxes were on the beach means there’s a chance we can recover something. It’s hard to get any rest knowing these thieves are still out there who targeted my parents. The community has done such a fantastic job so far.”
The family have increased security measures in their house since the incident.
Kent Police DC Rob Goodban warned people to be vigilant following the incident: “At this time of year when the nights are drawing in we urge everyone to be vigilant against burglars in their communities and to report any suspicious behaviour. “But residents should remember that burglars target homes during daylight hours, too.
“So if you see something and it doesn’t seem right, report it by phoning 101 or 999 if a crime is in progress.”
Meanwhile, Crimestoppers have been campaigning across the country for information about the theft of Asian gold, by people who may sell it on or smelt it down. It is often worn around Diwali, the famous festival of lights, which was celebrated this year during the first week of November.
Thieves particularly target Asian gold as it is often of a very high quality - last year, for instance, there were 160 incidents of Asian gold theft in Essex alone.
Phil Breckon, Crimestoppers’ eastern regional manager, said: “Gold theft can be immensely upsetting for victims. “Jewellery being stolen is often of huge sentimental value and has been passed down through generations.
“Please speak up about those targeting Asian gold and be an ambassador for our community.”
The charity is also asking possible targets to take care of their belongings, by using safes for example.
Anyone with information about the burglary is asked to call police on 01843 222289 quoting reference 46/11160/18.
You can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or via their anonymous online form at crimestoppers-uk.org.
More by this authorMolly Mileham-Chappell