Published: 11:14, 04 December 2018
| Updated: 10:24, 07 December 2018
Police accidentally deleted footage of a break-in supplied by the family of the elderly victims who say they have been "let down".
The home of Gerry Hunt and his wife Carol was broken into last Monday as Carol lay seriously ill in a bed at the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, after suffering a double heart attack.
Now Gerry, 77, has hit out at police, who he claims have displayed "a total lack of interest" in the devastating crime.
VIDEO: Footage shows the suspect at the house in St Michaels
Heart attack patient Carol was in such poor health that her family held off telling her about the cruel raid in which around £4,000 worth of jewellery was stolen.
A thief had smashed his way through the back patio doors of their home in Biddenden Road in St Michaels, near Tenterden.
Since then the family have been compiling CCTV of the incident and tracking down people on social media who have commented on the crime, but they claim that police have shown a "a total lack of interest".
Pensioner Gerry said that although an officer came to the house the day after the burglary, he was called away within minutes to an urgent case.
He returned to the house in the afternoon when Gerry handed him a USB stick containing clear CCTV images of the thief.
The USB stick showed the time frame of the break-in and the direction from which the suspect left the property, but the officer later phoned Gerry to request a CD of the information as his computer had accidentally "erased all the data".
Gerry, who had also informed the officer of the suspected get-away vehicle, a black Ford Fiesta, which was spotted in the lay-by, said: "I feel very let down by the police as they have been given so many leads from us.
"They could have easily been on his [the thief's] trail and there's so much information on social media about sightings of him that could have been picked up."
The officer had not collected the CD that Gerry's son Anthony had compiled a week after the crime took place, or sent a property form to record the stolen items, which had been promised, Gerry claimed.
Gerry, whose watches were taken in the raid along with his wife's jewellery, said: "It beggars belief. If the property turned up they [the police] would have no idea whatsoever who owned it."
He claimed that lack of interest from the police meant that burglars could act "with impunity".
The retired electrical contractor who built his firm from scratch says he worked hard all his life to secure a comfortable home for himself and Carol, his wife of 52 years.
He started working at the age of nine, cycling from his home in Bearsted to collect the Maidstone evening paper for distribution, beginning his apprenticeship in electrical engineering as a teenager and later working 17-hour days in his own business.
Gerry added that Carol, an insulin-dependent diabetic, has now been informed of the break-in but remains very ill and is "not out of the woods".
"It's a horrible situation to be in," he said.
Ashford and Shepway District Commander Chief Inspector Andy Somerville said: "A burglary in St Michaels, Tenterden, was reported to Kent Police on the evening of Monday, November 26 and an officer visited the victim the following day to take details and a USB stick on which CCTV footage had been downloaded. A CCTV still was also obtained from the victim.
"Unfortunately, when the officer tried to download the footage it was wiped from the USB stick due to a technical error, so arrangements were made for a copy of the footage to be copied onto a DVD. Officers have, however, reviewed the CCTV as part of their initial enquiries.
"The issue with the memory stick has not stopped officers from progressing the investigation and enquiries into the incident are being made by experienced detectives from one of the force’s specialist burglary teams.
"I’m sorry if the victim feels he has been let down but would like to reassure him that officers are following all possible lines of enquiry.
"Officers do not just aim to bring offenders to justice, but also have the victims’ interests at the heart of their investigation – only this week officers reunited eight victims of theft with property they thought they would never see again.
"Burglary is a particularly upsetting crime and Kent Police will do everything in its power to bring the offenders to justice. Officers encourage people to view the CCTV and, if they recognise the individual, to get in touch.
"Officers are liaising with the victim who will be kept updated with the investigation."
Anyone with information is asked to call Kent Police on 01843 222289 quoting 46/13304/18.
Alternatively contact the independent charity Crimestoppers in Kent anonymously on 0800 555111.