- Wielding machetes, they smash the front door in – then demand your valuables
- The Mail on Sunday visits an affluent suburb terrorized by a new breed of robbers
- There has been a drop in the number of burglaries in England and Wales last year
- However, the number of offences committed when homes occupied is on the rise
The dinner party guests were enjoying a balmy summer evening in Andrew Dutton-Parish’s garden when their convivial chatter was silenced by a crash at the front door.
Using a battering ram, it took a matter of seconds for the intruders, armed with machetes and iron bars, to gain entry. By the time Mr Dutton-Parish, a historian, put his glass down and ran inside to investigate, they were already moving between rooms like a SWAT team.
Unlucky for them that Mr. Dutton-Parish was entertaining guests? Not at all. In all likelihood, the gang knew exactly who was inside as they had watched them arrive.
Burglars usually operate by stealth, ideally when their targets are away. But striking terror into swathes of suburbia, this gang, and others like it, actually want to confront homeowners.
Only then are they able, through intimidation and violence, to force them to open safes or hand over expensive watches and jewellery.
Burglars usually operate by stealth, ideally when their targets are away. But striking terror into swathes of suburbia, this gang, and others like it, actually want to confront homeowners
In the United States, it is called a home invasion. Mr Dutton-Parish likened his horrifying experience at his home in Hampstead, North London, to ‘something from a movie by Quentin Tarantino’, the US director known for depicting gratuitous violence. ‘They were huge muscly guys and they wanted to instill terror,’ he said. Demanding to know where he kept the safe – he doesn’t have one – they battered him around the head, breaking his jaw and cheekbone. They also stabbed him in the ribs.
His partner was dragged into a sitting room and systematically beaten with iron bars, while his terrified guests were forced to hand over watches worth a combined total of £20,000.
‘The men were professional, well-drilled,’ said Mr Dutton-Parish. ‘They didn’t speak much, presumably to not give much away about themselves. I did catch a sort of London accent. It wasn’t like an old-fashioned burglary when the homeowner is out. They showed no hesitation in using gratuitous violence. They seemed to be excited by it. One of them waved a hammer over the heads of our guests.
Historian Andrew Dutton-Parish told how masked robbers armed with machetes burst into his Hampstead Home to steal £20,000 of designer watches as he hosted a dinner party. Mr. Dutton-Parish was punched in the face and his partner suffered a dislocated shoulder when they were attacked by four men. Mr Dutton-Parish said: ‘It was like something out of a Quentin Tarantino film’
‘We told them we didn’t have safe or expensive jewelry. They took our watches – mine was not valuable but it had sentimental value. They weren’t interested in things like wallets and phones – they wanted a safe. They were targeting us because they thought we could show them where it was.
‘There was a fifth man outside who seemed to be a lookout. Afterward, they jumped into what appeared to be a black 4×4 Audi and sped off.
‘Police told me we were the seventh home to have been robbed recently – one raid happened an hour beforehand – and since then there have been three more in the same area. They think it could potentially be the same gang.’
In nearby Winnington Road, where residents include Tottenham Hotspur captain Hugo Lloris, Russian billionaire Moshe Kantor and business tycoon Gerald Ronson, more than a £1 million has been spent on private security firms and round-the-clock security surveillance.
It goes without saying that bobbies on the beat are scarce. Yet one security guard patrolling the street told The Mail on Sunday there had been 11 break-in attempts during a five-day period over the summer.
Udaya Shetty, 50, a butler at one of the street’s most expensive houses, had a machete held to his throat by masked robbers in June.
‘Four men in a car turned up. One guy stayed in the car and three of them jumped over the gate,’ he said. ‘I was taking things out of our car. They started punching me – we were fighting for around ten minutes. They gave me a good beating and at one point I had a machete held up against my throat.
‘I refused to go down and some of the kitchen staff helped me fight them off.
‘They briefly got inside the home but they got away with nothing.
‘My injuries were very bad and people here are extremely scared. It’s the first time I’ve seen so much private security.’ Shocking moment gang of armed robbers descends on family home Loaded:
A video was posted to I Love Hampstead NW3 Facebook site of a ram raid that happened in June at a residential house
Following the attempted robbery, a meeting was held at the house and about 50 residents attended. Some pledged £10,000 each for security patrols. Others pay for their own security.
Alarm is so high that as The Mail on Sunday investigated the spate of home invasions, our reporter’s photograph was circulated among one residents’ WhatsApp group.
One resident, who asked not to be named, said: ‘I have lived here for 70 years and I’ve never known it so bad.
‘To some extent, Hampstead is a bit of a honeypot, but not like this – this is like a war on our own streets. I spoke to our local MP, Mike Freer, who said there have been eight burglaries since January, but I believe the number is a lot more.’
Another raid happened at a home in nearby Highgate, where a 4×4 was backed into a gate to knock it down and then the vehicle was used to ram open the front door. The owners were at home at the time.
Police sources say the contents of one safe stolen by a gang during another raid totaled six figures.
The raids are a short walk from where Arsenal footballers Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac fought off men armed with knives on mopeds last month.
Peter Williams is the owner of LCS Security, which patrols the streets and has about 500 clients in the area of Hampstead Garden Suburb. He said his business has increased by 20 percent in the past four months following the attacks and he is now employing former Gurkha soldiers.
‘Before, the burglars would look for empty houses, but now there’s so few police that these guys have no fear,’ he said.
‘They are looking for houses with the lights on and signs that people are home. Ideally, they want lots of people as there’s more chance of valuables. They want to get in and out as quickly as possible so they come in hard and fast.’
In May, men wearing balaclavas broke down the door at another home in Hampstead at 1.30am and grabbed the sleeping owner by the neck. He managed to escape and press a panic button before running into the garden. He believes they were looking for a safe. He said: ‘It’s a traumatic thing to happen. I was very frightened. Fortunately, my children weren’t at home at the time or else it could have been worse.
‘I’m really lucky I wasn’t hurt. Everyone’s fear is that they will get mugged or robbed. You’re probably insured and could start again. Being attacked like this is far worse, and it gives you a different perspective.’
Former Tottenham Hotspur footballer Ronny Rosenthal was robbed at his £4 million mansions in nearby Cricklewood in May by a gang of six men armed with machetes. He told neighbours they fled with a haul of designer watches.
Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who chairs the local safer neighborhoods panel, said: ‘Residents are beside themselves with fear – your home is where you are supposed to feel safe but that’s no longer the case. We don’t know if they are all being committed by the same gang but their modus operandi is the same – they turn up en masse when residents are at home, with tools to break down doors.
‘I’ve lived here for 30 years and I have never known anything like it. The level of violence is a step change – I could well see someone getting killed.
‘We don’t know what to do – putting things in like CCTV will not help as these guys are completely covered.’
Chilling CCTV footage obtained by The Mail on Sunday shows a gang of men armed with what appears to be a machete filing out from a car and storming towards a property in St John’s Wood.
One of the men even opens the boot and his accomplice springs out ready for the raid. The house was then ransacked.
An engineer last week installing a wrought-iron gate in Winnington Road said the area had become a ‘free-for-all’ for violent burglaries and compared it to the situation to his home town in South Africa.
Ryan Mesk, of Premier Gate Automation, said: ‘We’ve had customers getting in touch asking if we can make their gates higher – the old ones are not good enough to stop these guys.
‘In South Africa, all the houses have huge gates, floodlights, cameras and motion sensors, and it’s getting like that in England.
‘These criminals are no longer scared – there are no police so they know they can get away with it and that it’s easy.’
While there was been a drop in the total number of burglaries in England and Wales last year, the number of offences committed when homes are occupied is on the rise. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, 58 percent of burglaries in 2017 took place when residents were at home, up from 53 percent five years before.
Official figures also show that charges are brought in just one in 20 burglaries. For some areas of England, it is one in 50.
It also emerged last year that two-thirds of reported burglaries were no longer being pursued properly by officers. And The Mail on Sunday revealed earlier this month that more than 31,000 burglars who have carried out five or more break-ins have avoided jail.
Last night a Metropolitan police spokesman said: ‘A number of serious crimes, including robberies and burglaries, have taken place across Central and North London in recent months. We recognise the concern of residents and additional resources have been allocated to tackle this type of offending which is hugely harmful to our communities.
‘In recent weeks more than 15 offenders have been arrested, two of whom have been charged, with numerous weapons and five high-powered stolen vehicles seized, as part of the concerted effort to tackle this criminality.’