Published: 06:00, 10 April 2021
| Updated: 08:13, 10 April 2021
A woman in her 60s has become the latest victim of a terrifying break-in at home in a rural part of the county, after three similar raids happened just miles away.
The fear now is that violent burglars will continue to target countryside communities already feeling under threat from crime, as Rhys Griffiths reports.
It took two whole days before the woman was found, bound and gagged in her own home after becoming the latest victim of a violent break-in.
In her 60s, she was left with bruising, a black eye and cuts to her face after she was beaten and cut with a knife, had a bottle of alcohol poured over her and was tormented by an intruder for hours, before being left tied up as he made off with nothing but a small amount of cash.
This terrifying home invasion in Staplehurst Road, Frittenden, is the latest violent, armed burglary to occur within a small part of rural Kent in the last year.
In August armed police swooped on an address in Marden after an armed burglar forced his way into a house and threatened a woman before stealing money, watches and items of jewellery.
Watch: DCI Neil Kimber gives an update on the Frittenden burglary investigation
And last month another woman was tied up and left with her hands and legs bound after a gang of four men broke into her home in Clapper Lane, Staplehurst, before stealing jewellery, a watch, cash and two mobile phones.
Speaking yesterday as detectives continue to hunt the Frittenden suspect, Kent Police's lead investigator on the case vowed to find the woman's assailant.
"We need to catch this man - and it is my belief we will catch him," DCI Neil Kimber said.
"I'm sure that somebody out there knows exactly who did this. I appeal to them to pluck up the courage to come forward.
"It was two days before the victim was released, as far as her attacker knew, it might have been a week."
Despite the similarities between the four violent burglaries, DCI Kimber said there was no evidence suggesting any of the crimes were linked.
No arrests have yet been made in relation to any of the four break-ins.
Neighbours of the woman attacked in Frittenden told us they have installed home security systems as a measure against what they say is "a lot of criminality around here". Among the issues affecting the area are fly-tipping and the abandonment of burnt out cars and caravans.
Colin Highwood lives close to the home of the latest burglary victim in Frittenden, but does not know her personally.
"It does worry us because you never know when it might happen next," the 84-year-old said. "It's a horrible incident and we really hope she is OK. It's a concern that nobody noticed it."
A 2020 rural crime survey carried out by the Countryside Alliance found 46% of people living in the Kent countryside who were surveyed had been a victim of a crime in the previous 12 months.
Common crimes included fly-tipping, theft of agricultural machinery or equipment and trespass. Yet one in five victims did not report the crime because they considered it too trivial, it would have been a waste of time or the police would not be able to do anything about it.
Sarah Lee, the Countryside Alliance's head of policy, says crime and the fear of becoming a victim of crime is a major issue for our rural communities.
"Crime has always been a key issue throughout the countryside not only in Kent, but across the country," she said.
"These latest aggravated burglaries in the Kentish countryside reinforce the fact that rural areas are not immune from the devastation caused by criminals.
"For many people, whether they have fallen victim to crime or not, the simple fear of crime can have as great a detrimental effect on their quality of life as the actual experience of crime itself. The effect of long-term emotional stress, loss of confidence - particularly among young people, families and farmers - should not be underestimated."
The 2020 survey also found 52% of people do not believe the police take rural crime seriously, and 60% of those who did report crimes were dissatisfied with the police response.
Ms Lee said: "Rural policing is about far more than just numbers of police officers on the ground. If we truly want to tackle rural crime, then we must form effective partnerships between the police, rural communities and other authorities to ensure that the needs of our rural communities are truly understood so that the availability of services matches those needs."
John Miles and his partner Joan Stone were victims of the armed raid on their Paddock Wood home in September.
The break-in - which later featured in an appeal on BBC Crimewatch Live - saw two masked men dressed all in black smash through their patio doors armed with a crowbar and a shotgun.
At gunpoint, the couple were ordered into their bedroom and sat on the bed while the thugs looked for valuables.
Reacting to the news of the latest burglary, which happened just miles away, Mr Miles expressed his sympathy for the victim, and praised Kent Police for doing the best they could to try and catch the pair who broke into his home.
Unfortunately the 79-year-old said the appearance on television had failed to generate any news leads in the case.
Matthew Scott, who is running for re-election as Kent's police and crime commissioner, says there has been an increase in the number of officers dedicated to serving rural areas.
"Crime is important no matter where it takes place - that means rural crime is and will remain a priority for me," the Conservative candidate said.
"I have supported rural communities by recruiting more police officers, including doubling the size of the rural taskforce.
"There is still more I want to do. I will work with government to recruit another 300 police officers and ensure they are visible and active in our urban and rural areas."
Additional reporting by Liane Castle and Alan Smith